A former Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was sentenced Thursday to 18 years, eight months in prison for beating his girlfriend bloody with a vacuum cleaner and then strangling her nearly two years ago.
Refugio Sanchez Jr., 34, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Nov. 13, 2013, death of Angela Cannizzio.
Cannizzio was 33 and the mother of two children.
Sanchez attacked Cannizzio after the two argued in the Lakewood apartment they shared. Sanchez apparently was upset that Cannizzio was thinking of leaving him, Pierce County deputy prosecutor Patrick Cooper said in recommending a sentence of 20 years.
Court records show Sanchez used an upright vacuum cleaner to pummel Cannizzio head before dragging her downstairs, smashing her face into the floor and then strangling her.
“This was an extremely violent and bloody beating,” Cooper told Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff.
The victim’s mother, Rita Cannizzio, said she would always be haunted by her daughter’s horrible death.
“There’s a hole in my heart that will never go away,” said Cannizzio, who also lamented the fact that Sanchez was not charged with first-degree murder and subject to a life sentence.
The victim’s brother, Thomas Torngren, also addressed Chushcoff.
“He still gets to go out and walk around. He gets to have a life,” Torngren said of Sanchez. “My sister doesn’t. It’s not fair.”
Cannizzio’s ex-mother-in-law, Sharon Beaudreau, spoke to Chushcoff via speaker phone. She said the victim’s youngest child was still a toddler when his mother died and has little memory of her.
“It breaks my heart just to look at him,” Beaudreau said. “He will never again feel that unconditional love between a mother and her son. Refugio took that away from him.”
Sanchez’s attorney, Adrian Pimentel, argued for a sentence of 18 years. His client has symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder after serving two tours in Iraq, Pimentel said.
“He is responsible for what he did, but that service has taken a toll, a significant toll, on him,” the attorney said.
Sanchez then was given the chance to speak. He said he was horrified by what he’d done and wished he could take it back.
“I’ll never forgive myself for what I’ve done,” said Sanchez, who served in the Army for six years before being discharged because of his legal problems. “I don’t expect no one else to forgive me. I am truly sorry.”
Chushcoff went last.
The judge said he didn’t know whether PTSD played a part Sanchez’s actions.
“What caused him to have such rage and to be so continuous about it and to do really brutal things to Ms. Cannizzio passes my understanding,” Chushcoff said.
He then picked a sentence between what Cooper had asked for and what Pimentel wanted, acknowledging to Cannizzio’s relatives that he understood if they didn’t think it was fair.
“Nothing was ever going to be fair about this in the big sense of that word,” Chushcoff said.