EL CAJON, Calif., (KGTV) — The combination of good old fashioned police work and advancements in DNA science helped put an Oregon man behind bars after he killed a La Mesa man in 2006.
Today, Hon. Judge Robert Amador announced Zachary Bunney's sentence: 12 years in a California prison for voluntary manslaughter.
Before his sentence was announced, Bunney read an apology letter to the family of Scott Martinez.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry for the pain that this has caused the Martinez family. If I could go back in time and change the course of events that led to this, I would. I know that words cannot bring back to life, but I am truly sorry."
Bunney referred to the night of June 27, 2006. La Mesa Police said Bunney went into 47-year-old Scott Martinez's apartment and used a sword to stab Martinez 30 times, killing him.
For 12 years, Bunney evaded police, and the case went cold. Until this January, investigators linked the killer's DNA left on a bloody tissue paper, to Bunney's distant relative who was registered on a public genealogy database.
"The defendant's DNA was uploaded into the system," Deputy District Attorney Brian Erickson said. "A relative of his had uploaded her DNA, and then they do the family tree backwards, and they were able to trace it through that."
Detectives discovered that the DNA on the bloody tissue belonged to Oregon resident Zachary Bunney.
"I didn't think anything like this would be what cracked the case," Martinez's daughter, Angelina Panek said.
By November, Bunney pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. In exchange for dismissing the murder charge, his stipulated agreement was that he would get 12 years in state prison.
"The amount of years that he was on the run, and this is the amount of years he is going to be given as a sentence. It was a sign. And I had to take it," Panek said.
Panek said she will always wear her father's ashes in her special necklace, knowing that he is watching over her and her family.
"I'm just grateful that this day has come. I couldn't ask for a better Christmas gift."