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California Man Receives 25-Year to Life Sentence for Ice Ax Murder of Girlfriend

In Ridgecrest, California, a judge sentenced 23-year-old Daniel Gunnarsson to a minimum of 25 years in prison for the brutal murder of his girlfriend, Kathryn Pham. The tragic incident involved the use of an ice ax and disturbing acts following her death, leading to a conviction of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

California Man Receives 25-Year to Life Sentence for Ice Ax Murder of Girlfriend
California Man Receives 25-Year to Life Sentence for Ice Ax Murder of Girlfriend

Reports from KGET-TV unveiled that Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a distress call on May 18, 2021, at the 900 block of Skylark Avenue in Ridgecrest. They found Pham with severe trauma, leading to her immediate death. Gunnarsson was subsequently arrested in connection with the incident.

During the trial, it was revealed that Pham and Gunnarsson had been in a relationship for approximately a month before the fatal occurrence. On the day of the incident, Gunnarsson showcased alarming behavior, expressing animosity toward Pham and displaying signs interpreted by friends as suicidal tendencies.

On the day of the murder, Gunnarsson picked Pham up from her apartment, drove her to his stepfather’s house, and together they entered an RV garage. Witnesses, painters working at the residence, reported hearing distressing sounds before eventually finding Gunnarsson covered in blood and Pham deceased on a mattress in the garage.

Further investigation disclosed the chilling details of the attack: Gunnarsson, after donning gloves, viciously assaulted Pham with a 24-inch ice ax, inflicting multiple wounds to her head, neck, and face. Following her death, he desecrated her remains in a disturbing and sexual manner.

Leading up to the tragedy, Gunnarsson exhibited disturbing behavior, including repeatedly crashing his car into a wall outside Pham’s apartment building in a fit of anger due to what was reported as unreciprocated feelings from Pham.

Throughout the legal proceedings, Gunnarsson underwent two competency exams, ultimately being deemed fit to stand trial in June.

Despite the defense’s attempt to suggest the possibility of another perpetrator, the court found Gunnarsson guilty. At the sentencing, Pham’s family condemned his actions, with her father referring to Gunnarsson as a “monster” and her grandmother expressing the deep loss felt by the family.

Gunnarsson’s sentence includes 25 years to life, reflecting the severity of his actions and the tragic loss of Kathryn Pham.


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