Corrections & Clarifications. The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jana Van Sickle’s last name.
A Phoenix man has been arrested on suspicion of shooting his girlfriend to death, then sealing her body in a gun safe and burying it in the desert, according to court records.
Paul Palandri, 59, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of killing his 51-year-old girlfriend, Jana Van Sickle, in 2016, Maricopa County court records released Friday say. The documents include a probable-cause statement submitted by Phoenix police.
A witness told police that Palandri killed Van Sickle in retaliation for burning down his barn, records say.
Palandri was being held in a Maricopa County jail with bond set at $1 million.
Van Sickle was reported missing in November 2016 after she hadn’t been seen for “a few weeks,” the court documents said. A friend of the missing woman told police that Van Sickle had planned to go to Palandri’s house to break up with her longtime boyfriend because she was tired of the “drug life.”
“She told (the friend) that Paul was bad for her and she had to get away from him if she wanted to change her life around,” investigators wrote.
Three weeks after Van Sickle was reported missing, Gila River tribal members found a gun safe, which had been welded shut, partially buried in a deep hole in the desert near 87th Avenue and Dobbins Road. Desert plants and trees had been strategically placed around the hole to disguise it, but a corner of the safe had been dug up by animals.
The body of a decomposing female wearing one white Converse shoe was found inside the safe, the report said. Shell casings and an empty beer can also were stashed inside.
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The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the woman as Van Sickle and determined she was shot to death.
Investigators used cellphone records to place Van Sickle near Palandri’s house before she disappeared, records state.
Earlier this month, a witness told investigators they heard Palandri admit to shooting Van Sickle twice in at his home near Seventh Street and Greenway Road in retaliation for burning down his barn, records state.
Palandri also told the witness that he sanded down the walls of the room to hide evidence of the killing and that he hid her body in the backyard of the home until she started to “stink,” according to the documents.
Then, he put the body inside the gun safe and welded it shut because it would not fully close, the report stated. “Others” helped Palandri move the body to the reservation and bury it, records say.
Police said they found multiple guns, shovels and work gloves in Palandri’s home, records say. The gloves were covered with paint stains matching the color of the safe, records say.
Palandri was booked on suspicion of second-degree murder and one count of trafficking in connection with allegations that he purchased stolen goods.