VISTA -- A Bay Area man convicted of murdering a Del Mar biotech executive 16 years ago to keep her from testifying against him in a sexual assault trial was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case attracted attention in part because it was solved due to advances in DNA technology that allowed investigators to link material found under the victim's fingernails to the accused.
Superior Court Judge John Einhorn told David Paul Frediani, 46, the court would show him no mercy just as he showed no mercy to Helena Greenwood, 35.
"Miss Greenwood was probably the most blameless victim this court has seen," Einhorn said. "The callous, vicious, senseless attack on her, first of a sexual nature, then her murder, is a shock to this community."
Frediani, dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit, showed no emotion after the sentence was read. He declined to address the court. His attorney, David Bartick, said he would appeal the case.
Greenwood, vice president of a DNA research and development company, was strangled on Aug. 22, 1985, just three weeks before she was to testify against Frediani, who was charged with breaking into her Northern California home and assaulting her a year earlier.
Frediani pleaded no contest to the assault charge and served three years of a six-year sentence.
Greenwood and her husband, Roger Franklin, had moved to Del Mar after the assault. Both were originally from England. Franklin found Greenwood's battered body in their backyard garden after frantic co-workers told him she had not shown up for an appointment.
While authorities said Frediani was a prime suspect in her murder, he was not arrested until 1999 when advances in DNA technology linked him to the genetic material found under Greenwood's fingernails.
Franklin died six months before the arrest.
His mother, Pearl Franklin, told an English television station on Monday that the family was pleased with the sentence.
"We were always worried he could cause so much hurt to our family and worried that he could later hurt other people," she said. "But this prevents that and it is wonderful news. Helena's father would have been so proud."
Greenwood's father, Sidney Greenwood, died one day after the murder verdict was reached.
A forensic scientist testified during the murder trial that the chances someone other than Frediani left the skin and blood found under Helena Greenwood's fingernails was one-in-2.3 quadrillion. The jury convicted Frediani of first-degree murder and the special circumstance of killing a witness in less than five hours.
Gisela Koestner, one of Helena Greenwood's co-workers, attended Monday's sentencing. She said she wanted to make sure someone was there to represent Helena Greenwood.
"All these years, Helena pointed from her grave at her murderer because the evidence was under her fingernails," said Koestner, a Poway resident.
Koestner said she did not know Helena Greenwood socially, but described her as friendly and personable. The sentencing, she said, gave her some closure after all of these years.
"I think I will keep lighting candles for Helena, but it will be with a sense of relief and a sense of triumph," Koestner said.
Contact staff writer Kimberly Epler at (760) 739-6644 or email@example.com.