Former JBLM soldier sentenced to 18-plus years for killing girlfriend

A former Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier was sentenced Thursday to 18 years, eight months in prison for beating his girlfriend bloody with a vacuum cleaner and then strangling her nearly two years ago.

Refugio Sanchez Jr., 34, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Nov. 13, 2013, death of Angela Cannizzio.

Cannizzio was 33 and the mother of two children.

Sanchez attacked Cannizzio after the two argued in the Lakewood apartment they shared. Sanchez apparently was upset that Cannizzio was thinking of leaving him, Pierce County deputy prosecutor Patrick Cooper said in recommending a sentence of 20 years. Court records show he used an upright vacuum cleaner to pummel her head before dragging her downstairs, smashing her face into the floor and then strangling her.

“This was an extremely violent and bloody beating,” Cooper told Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff.

The victim’s mother, Rita Cannizzio, said she would always be haunted by her daughter’s horrible death.

“There’s a hole in my heart that will never go away,” said Cannizzio.

The victim’s brother, Thomas Torngren, also addressed Chushcoff.

“He still gets to go out and walk around. He gets to have a life,” Torngren said of Sanchez. “My sister doesn’t. It’s not fair.”

Cannizzio’s ex-mother-in- law spoke to Chushcoff via speaker phone.

Sharon Beaudreau said the victim’s youngest child was still a toddler when his mother died and doesn’t have much memory of her.

“It breaks my heart just to look at him,” Beaudreau said.

Sanchez’s attorney, Adrian Pimentel, argued for a sentence of 18 years.

His client has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after serving two tours in Iraq, Pimentel said.

Sanchez then was given the chance to speak.

He said he is horrified by what he’s done and wishes he could take it back.

“I’ll never forgive myself for what I’ve done,” said Sanchez, who served in the Army for six years before being discharged due to his legal problems. “I don’t expect no one else to forgive me. I am truly sorry.”

The judge said he didn’t know if PTSD played a part Sanchez’s actions.

“What caused him to have such rage and to be so continuous about it and to do really brutal things to Ms. Cannizzio passes my understanding,” the judge said.

The judge then picked a sentence that was between what Cooper had asked for and what Pimentel wanted, acknowledging to Cannizzio’s relatives that he understood if they didn’t think it was fair.

“Nothing was ever going to be fair about this in the big sense of that word,” Chushcoff said.