BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (TCD) -- A 23-year-old man will spend a minimum of 25 years behind bars for killing his girlfriend with an ice ax in a garage, then touching her body sexually after she died.
KGET-TV reports a judge sentenced Daniel Gunnarsson to 25 years to life with an additional two years and four months for the death of Kathryn Pham. A jury Gunnarsson found guilty Aug. 30 of first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon and abuse of a corpse.
On May 18, 2021, Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the 900 block of Skylark Avenue in Ridgecrest and found Pham with trauma to her body. Officials pronounced her deceased at the scene and consequently arrested Gunnarsson in connection with her death.
According to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, Pham and Gunnarsson were in a relationship for about a month prior to the killing. On May 17, 2021, Gunnarsson reportedly "displayed animosity towards Pham and expressed what his friends believed to be suicidal behavior." He reportedly went to his stepfather’s house May 18, 2021, and spoke about his "failing relationship with Pham."
He called her and apologized, then picked her up at her apartment and drove her back to his stepfather’s home. When they got to the house, Pham and Gunnarsson went into an RV garage. Painters working at the stepfather’s house heard Pham screaming and what sounded like "shuffling of items." The painters went into the garage about an hour later and discovered Gunnarsson with blood all over his body and Pham deceased on a mattress topper.
The statement said Pham was partially naked, with her chest and midsection exposed. The painters went to the stepfather for help and called 911. Investigators determined Gunnarsson put on gloves, then attacked Pham with a 24-inch ice ax 10 times, hitting her in the head, neck, and face. After she died, Gunnarsson "repositioned Pham and proceeded to touch her remains in a sexual manner."
According to KGET, the day before the murder, Gunnarsson reportedly reversed his car into a wall outside Pham’s apartment building multiple times. He was purportedly angry she did not "reciprocate his feelings."
Gunnarsson underwent two competency exams prior to his trial, and in June, he was deemed competent to stand trial.
KGET reports Gunnarsson’s defense attorney argued someone else could have gone into the RV garage and killed Pham.
At the sentencing hearing, Pham’s father called Gunnarsson a "monster."
Pham’s grandmother shared, "She was a treasure and we loved doing anything with her."