SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Mira Mesa man who beat and strangled his wife of 16 years, claiming she was fatally injured in a fall down the stairs while their two children slept, was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years to life in state prison.
David Patrick Ditto, 45, was convicted in October of first-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old Karina Ditto.
"This is a tragic case," said Superior Court Judge Kenneth So. "It's tragic for the victim. It's tragic for the children."
Deputy District Attorney Claudine Ruiz said during trial that the couple had been having marital difficulties and had talked about divorce.
David Ditto had been controlling in the marriage and was upset about a flirtatious relationship the victim had with a male co-worker, the prosecutor said.
Ditto testified that his wife went upstairs to use the bathroom on the night of March 11, 2011, when he heard a cat screech and a loud "thud, thud, thud, thud, thud" coming down the stairs. He said he got off the couch and found his wife at the foot of the staircase.
Paramedics and firefighters responding to the 911 call made shortly before 1 a.m. expected to see a victim injured from a fall, but what they found was very different, Ruiz said.
Paramedics noted injuries to the victim's right temple and a cut to the back of her head, but there was no active bleeding even though the victim was covered in blood, according to Ruiz.
The defendant also had scratches on his face from his wife, the prosecutor said.
A firefighter who was suspicious called police, Ruiz said. The woman was taken off life support two days later.
Nurses looking after Karina Ditto hours before she died on March 14 noticed extensive bruising on her body, according to Ruiz.
"The defendant presented himself as a cold, calculated person without remorse," the prosecutor told the judge Tuesday.
Among those cold and calculated actions, was the defendant's purchase of accidental death and disability insurance for his wife five months before the murder, Ruiz said.
She said there were allegations of prior domestic violence in the home, but Karina Ditto was a private person and kept everything to herself.
Ditto's trial lawyer, Keith Rutman, told the jury that the defendant had no reason to kill his wife and the couple had plans to renew their marriage vows.
Two months after the verdict, Ditto hired attorney Allen Bloom to look into the possibility of filing a motion for a new trial, but no motion was ever filed.
Ruiz said Karina Ditto's family was unable to travel from La Paz, Mexico to be at the sentencing because -- after seven months of delays -- the prosecution wasn't notified that the motion wouldn't be filed.
Bloom said an appeal is planned.