7. This isn’t self-inflicted

Crime Behind the Pine Curtain
Crime Behind the Pine Curtain
7. This isn't self-inflicted

Sanders gets 75 years for wife’s murder

LIVINGSTON — After hearing two days of testimony about how Del Ray Sanders, 50, spent Valentine’s weekend in 2009 repeatedly beating his wife, even after she was dead, a Polk County sentenced the 50-year-old Holiday Lakes resident to life in prison. 

A month before her death, Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies had been called to the Sanders residence in Holiday Lakes after Sanders assaulted his wife. She later asked the district attorney’s office not to prosecute him. 

District Attorney Lee Hon said without her full cooperation, it would be difficult to pursue severe punishment. Prosecutors and Sanders reached a plea agreement in which he agreed to get anger management counseling as a condition of probation for the offense.

“Obviously that didn’t work,” Hon said as he waited for the jury’s verdict in the sentencing phase of the trial. “I’m sorry we didn’t do more to protect her.”

On Monday, Feb. 16, Del Ray Sanders went to a neighbor’s house and asked her to come check on Linnie. The neighbor found Linnie in bed with numerous bruises and apparently dead. She called EMS and the sheriff’s department.

Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell Longino pronounced her dead and ordered an autopsy which later determined Linne Sanders’ death was a homicide due to blunt force trauma.

When investigators first attempted to intervew Del Ray Sanders, they said he was incoherent and under the influence of an unknown intoxicant. 

They took him to Memorial Medical Center-Livingston for treatment.

Investigators interviewed him Tuesday, Feb. 17 and charged him with aggravated assault with serious bodily injury.

After reports from the medical examiner were completed, the Polk County Grand Jury indicted Sanders on one count of murder and two counts of aggravated assault in connection with Linne Sanders’ death.

The autopsy found that Linnie Sanders had been dead for at least 12 hours before her husband went to the neighbor’s house on the pretense of seeking help.

Injuries found during the autopsy included a spinal fracture and severed spinal cord at the base of the neck as well as fractures in the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. In addition to visible bruises over much of her body, she had contusions on a lung,  fractures to her left ribs and lacerated liver. She had a hemotoma (a large bruise filled with blood) and hemorraging inside her brain, the medical examiner testified.

Some of the lacerations found during autopsy were inflicted after Linnie Sanders was dead. In fact, he estimated about 25 percent of her injuries were post-mortem.

Hon asked jurors also to consider Del Ray Sanders demeanor in the courtroom when assessing his punishment. 

Most of Sanders’ comments to his attorney during the trial — including disparaging remarks about his sister — were heard by spectators and the jury.

“Hatred is about the best way to describe his behavior. He’s been about the most animated defendant I’ve ever dealt with in a trial,” Hon said. 

Sanders plead “true” to three prior acts that led to enhancing the sentencing range he face to 15 years to life or 99 years.

His attorney said the enhancement — from five to 15 years — takes into account the enhancing allegations and pointed out his prior acts were burglary of a motor vehicle, theft and driving while intxocated charges. 

“He has been punished for those offenses,” the defense attorney said. 

The defense also pointed out that even a 30-year sentence would amount to life for the 50 year old defendant. He asked the jury to assess a 20 year sentence. 

After the sentence was read, Linnie Sanders’ mother spoke directly to Del Ray Sanders during the victim impact statement. 

“We may never truly know what happened that weekend, but we know that now Linnie is truly safe and you can never touch her again,” said Doris Rhodes. “We will never again speak your name and refused to allow you to touch our family again.”

Standing with their grandmother were Linnie’s two children, Whitney Betros and Timothy Betros. 

Their father Rick Betros also spoke, advising Sanders to use his liberty to look up and ponder the word “eternity” for the day when he meets “the judge of judges.”