When family and friends reacted to the slaying of Alexandra "Sandra" Joyce Tang in September 2012, some expressed their wish that her 26-year-old boyfriend and murderer spend the rest of his life locked up. After Derek Henry Pinski of Laguna Hills pleaded guilty this week to fatally stabbing his 24-year-old girlfriend, he received a sentence that could keep him locked up until he dies. Or maybe it won't.
Pinski copped Wednesday to second-degree murder and was immediately sentenced by a judge to an indefinite stay at a state mental hospital because he was found to be legally insane at the time of the Sept. 1, 2012 attack. Pinski had "multiple" diagnoses of mental illnesses that qualify under state law as "severe mental disorders," Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh told City News Service's courtroom reporter Paul Anderson.
After 15 years, Pinski will be eligible to petition for his release, Baytieh added. The patient will perhaps have the backing by then of state mental health doctors, who could conclude he is no longer a risk to society and recommend his release.
Tang and Pinski were girlfriend and boyfriend while attending UC Santa Barbara. She still resided up there when Pinski returned to Laguna Hills to live with his mother. Tang had been down for a visit that September 2012 day when Pinski's mother discovered Tang's lifeless body in his bedroom. Pinski was long gone by then, driving to his father's home in Arizona, where he was later arrested.
"Sandra was such a spirited girl," her family said in a statement before services in Goleta. "She was full of life and love. She had an exciting future ahead of her, and no words can fully express how much she'll be missed by all."
"I am so sorry for your loss of such a beautiful person," Robyn Ballard wrote on a Facebook memorial page Tang's family created. "May she walk with Heaven's angels and hold hands with God. Tang family, stay strong and pursue justice on this horrible act of violence. Start a petition for all Facebook users to sign to put this man away for the rest of his life."
Maybe, maybe not.