VICTORVILLE • A former Fort Irwin soldier convicted of murdering and robbing a fellow ex-soldier was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison Friday in Victorville Superior Court.
In an unusual move before the pronouncement of judgment, Deputy District Attorney Jill Gregory played a victim impact statement video sent from Sandi Lee Duncan's family, who now live out of state and couldn't attend the sentencing.
The slideshow included photos of Duncan with background music, illustrating her 29 years of life. When the video footage showed 10-year-old Duncan running around in her grandmother's backyard hunting Easter eggs, sobs from the audience echoed in the courtroom. The defendant, Melvin Satcher, never took his eyes off the projected video, looking straight at the screen.
After graduating from high school in 1998, Duncan enlisted in the Army.
"I know I'll never be divine because I will never forgive you," Duncan's mother wrote in a victim impact statement. "It's too bad you can't be tried for everybody's life you have changed forever."
Satcher, 24, was found guilty last month of the first-degree murder and robbery of Duncan.
A jury also found the allegation of principal armed with a gun to be true. Judge John Tomberlin sentenced him to the maximum prison term possible by law.
Duncan's body was found in a remote desert area in Apple Valley on Sept. 21, 2009.
Duncan, who was last seen on Sept. 20, 2009, had a strangulation mark on her neck and two gunshot wounds to the chest. The investigators found tire impressions and two gun casings near the body.
Phillip Franke, Duncan's co-defendant, admitted to investigators he was involved in a robbery and saw Satcher shoot Duncan twice. Franke said he, Satcher and two other people split $400 Duncan had. The victim, who had been taking classes at Barstow Community College, had cashed student aid checks just before her death, Gregory said.
Despite Franke's statement, Gregory didn't prosecute him as the shooter.
"The evidence was inconclusive as to whether Satcher was the shooter," Gregory said.
Cell records placed Satcher in Apple Valley at the time Duncan likely died, which was inconsistent with his statement. Authorities also found Duncan's purse in Franke's car, whose tires matched the impressions left at the scene. Satcher also made a number of phone calls expressing concerns about impoundment of Franke's car, according to the probation officer's report.
Satcher denied any involvement in Duncan's death during an interview with his probation officer. He believed the jury trial was in his favor because there was no physical evidence, Satcher said according to the report.
Tomoya Shimura may be reached at tshimura@VVDailyPress.com or (760) 955-5368.