PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) — A Phoenix man is accused of murdering his girlfriend, welding her body into a gun safe, then burying the safe in the desert.
Paul Palandri, 59, faces charges of second-degree murder and trafficking in stolen property. He was arrested Thursday at his residence near 7th Street and Greenway Road.
Victim Jana Van Sickle, 51, disappeared in November of 2016. Her son had called to police to report that his mom was missing.
She had recently told a family friend that she was tired of living the “drug life” and that she planned “to break up with Paul (Palandri) and get away from the bad life that she was living.” She said Palandri was “bad for her and she had to get away from him if she wanted to turn her life around,” according to the police report.
Soon after she went missing, Gila River tribal members walking in the desert near 87th Avenue and Dobbins Road called police to report a hole in the ground. They described the hole as “not very wide but very deep.”
Gila River police tried to find the hole but could not locate it.
About a month later, the same tribal members went back to the area and spotted a gun safe partially buried at the original site the hole had been located. According to the police report, the suspect had “placed desert plants and trees around it and over it to prevent the safe from being detected.”
However, it appeared wild animals had begun digging in the area, exposing a corner or the safe.
The tribe members again called police.
This time, police found the site, and along with FBI agents, were able to dig up the gun safe.
Inside the safe, they found a female “in stages of decomposition.” The victim was later identified as the missing woman, Van Sickle. She had been shot to death.
Police say the suspect had poured white lime powder over the body and had welded the safe shut.
Inside the safe, investigators also found shell casings and an empty beer can.
During a later police interview, Palandri said he had not seen or heard from the victim since Nov. 7.
But cell phone records indicated they had been in contact.
And a family member of the victim told police that Palandri was a “very scary and violent person” and that police should check his backyard for the victim’s body.
During the course of the investigation, Palandri denied to police that he had killed Van Sickle.
But a witness later came forward and said “he/she heard Palandri state several times, ‘That’s why I shot that [expletive.]’ in different social settings.”
According to the police report, Palandri then told the witness he “shot Jana with a .22 caliber gun twice, killing her for burning down his barn.” He then told the witness he “had others sand down his walls where the killing took place to hide any evidence. He hid Jana’s body in his backyard, a two-acre property, until she started to ‘stink.'”
The police report also states that Palandri told the witness, “he then put her in a gun safe and had to weld the door shut because it would not shut all the way. Palandri then had others help him move the safe to the ‘res’ (reservation) to bury it.”
Palandri was arrested after an undercover sting, during which he “knowingly and intentionally” purhased stolen products.
Palandri is being held on a $1,000,000 bond.
He is due back in court Oct. 18.