A man accused of the 1981 first-degree murder of a blind, deaf 88-year-old Sacramento woman has pleaded guilty to the crime.
Leroy Veal, 60, admitted killing Pauline Colombatto and to three special circumstances allegations that the crime occurred during the commission of burglary, attempted robbery and rape, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office announced today.
In exchange for the plea to these offenses and a waiver of appellate rights, the District Attorney's Office agreed not to pursue the death penalty, but to instead have Veal sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Officials said the disposition was based on several factors. With the passage of time, key witness have either died, or have vague or no memories of the events leading up to, during and following the crime.
In addition, in evaluating the DNA evidence at the preliminary hearing, it appeared that certain foundational issues pertaining to the admissibility of the DNA evidence might not be met during trial.
Finally, officials said, legal issues germane to the case are pending before the California and United States Supreme Courts. It is unclear how or when the courts will rule, making it unpredictable when the trial could proceed.
Resolution of those issues could adversely impact the prosecution of this case, the District Attorney's Office concluded.
Colombatto's neighbors, who brought the widow breakfast every morning, found her dead on the couch of her home where she lived alone in the 3600 block of 44th Avenue in South Sacramento. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten, and died from blunt force trauma to her upper torso.
The crime remained unsolved until December 2005, when the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department arrested Veal after DNA evidence linked him to Colombatto's death.
Veal was already in custody at Avenal State Prison south of Fresno, serving a 56-year sentence for a series of rapes and robberies in 1987.