A man who pleaded guilty last month to the 1981 first-degree murder of a blind, deaf 88-year-old Sacramento woman has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Leroy Veal, 60, pleaded guilty to the murder of Pauline Colombatto and was sentenced by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Savage. Veal also admitted to three special circumstance allegations that the crime occurred during the commission of burglary, attempted robbery and rape.
In exchange for a plea to these offenses and a waiver of appellate rights, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office agreed not to pursue the death penalty, but instead have Veal sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, according to a news release.
Officials said the disposition was based upon several factors. With the passage of time, key witnesses 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, legal issues germane to the case that are pending before the California and U.S. supreme courts, according to the news release. Officials said it is unclear how or when the courts will rule, making it difficult to predict when the trial could proceed, and resolution of those issues could adversely affect prosecution of the case.
The crime had 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.