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The Santa Maria Times
By Samantha Yale/Staff writer
Oct. 26, 2006
Ferdinand Vistro’s fingerprints were the only ones found on plastic trash bags prosecutors allege he used to suffocate his estranged wife last year, according to testimony Wednesday from a fingerprint expert.
Burt Hirahara, a latent print analyst with the state Department of Justice, shared his findings about the fingerprints during testimony in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.
Vistro, 40, is accused of murdering Vida Vistro, 38, on March 21, 2005, in the master bedroom of the Santa Maria house the former couple once shared.
After Hirahara answered the prosecution’s questions about the finger and palm prints found on the trash bags, defense attorney Victor Salas Jr. asked Hirahara if he could tell when the fingerprints were left on the bag. Hirahara replied that he could not.
Nicole Inacio, a senior criminologist with the Department of Justice, testified that DNA likely belonging to both Ferdinand Vistro and Vida Vistro was found on one of the three trash bags taken from the crime scene.
DNA evidence taken from a trash bag that was found with tape attached to it showed a high likelihood of being Vida Vistro’s. A small amount of DNA from another person was also found in that bag, but it was not enough to determine who the contributor was, Inacio said. A head hair found in the bag with tape on it turned out to have been Vida Vistro’s, she testified.
A third trash bag found in the trash can of the master bedroom contained DNA that likely belonged the Vida Vistro and from two other people, neither of them the defendant, Ignacio testified.
DNA tests conducted on sweatpants Vida Vistro was wearing at the time of her death and a fitted sheet from her bed both revealed semen having a high likelihood of being from the defendant, Inacio said.
That and other evidence gathered at the scene suggested that the couple had sexual intercourse, she said.
Wednesday was the third day of testimony in the case.
Countering the allegations made by deputy district attorneys Ann Bramsen and Megan Baldwin, Salas has asserted that Vida Vistro killed herself.
Other testimony Wednesday came from Timothy Appel, a forensic toxicologist with the Department of Justice, who spoke about his findings from tests on Ferdinand Vistro’s blood and urine.
Ferdinand Vistro was found by relatives the evening of March 21, 2005, in the bedroom where Vida Vistro’s body was found. He was groggy from an apparent sleeping pill overdose.
Appel said his tests revealed therapeutic levels of Restoril, a drug commonly used as a sleeping aid and to treat anxiety, and the presence of an anti-depressant. There was also a slight amount of alcohol in Vistro’s system, Appel said.
Appel said he couldn’t testify to the precise amount of Restoril found in Vistro’s system, or estimate the time the drug was taken.
“These are definitely not fatal or lethal levels,” he said.
On cross examination, Salas asked Appel if the drugs found in Vistro’s body would affect a person to the degree that he would have trouble walking, talking and thinking clearly.
Appel answered that he has seen people on Restoril have difficulty with actions as simple as writing the alphabet.
Samantha Yale can be reached at 739-2159 or email@example.com.
Loved ones of Vida Vistro spoke about her lively and compassionate personality and their difficulty in dealing with her death. They expressed sadness for her children, who are left without a mother or father.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge James Rigali sentenced Vistro to 25 years to life in prison, the maximum allowed, for the first-degree murder of Vida Vistro.
There is no going back,C Rigali told Vistro after issuing his sentence. The damage that you have caused is extensive.
Rigali said Vistro had the right to appeal the case.
Vistro/s attorney, Victor Salas Jr., said after the hearing that his client wants to file an appeal.
Prior to the sentencing, those close to the victim were invited to speak to the court and Vistro.
Vistro, 40, was accused of using plastic bags to suffocate Vida Vistro, 38, in her home on March 21, 2005. Ferdinand Vistro, who had a history of depression, attempted suicide by way of a sleeping pill overdose on the day he killed Vida Vistro. The victim had filed for divorce from her husband shortly before her death.
A Santa Maria jury returned a guilty verdict in the case Nov. 6.
The Vistros have three children who are in the custody of Vida Vistro/s mother, Corrie Ebrahimi, who was the first person to make a “victim impact statementC Wednesday.
There was never a doubt in my mind what happened 7 you had killed her,C she said, looking firmly at Ferdinand Vistro, who was seated at the defense table. “It was instant knowledge.
It does not seem possible that my beautiful, vivacious daughter is below my feet.C
With her hand quaking as she clung to her notes, Ebrahimi said her final words to her former son-in-law.
I hope this is the last time I ever have to look at you.C
Vida Vistro/s brother, John Ebrahimi Jr., spoke next.
He read a statement written by his father, also named John Ebrahimi, who listened with his fingers pressed to his closed eyes.
Ebrahimi wrote that his daughter was kind, compassionate and helpful.
Just imagine, my grandchildren going through life knowing that their father murdered their mother,C he said.
The younger Ebrahimi then spoke on his own behalf.
He said that when he called to tell his father, usually a composed man, that Vida Vistro was dead, he heard the phone hit the ground and listened to the “painful screams of my father, over and over again.C
Ebrahimi said he felt overwhelmed at the loss of his sister, but couldn/t fathom the loss felt by his parents at the death of their only daughter. John Ebrahimi said he was shocked when he observed Ferdinand Vistro show no apparent reaction during trial while viewing photos of his former wife dead at the crime scene.
As my family cried, he just sat there with no expression … I realized he was a monster, C Ebrahimi said.
Statements followed from longtime friends of Vida Vistro, and from former co-workers at Prudential California Realty in Santa Maria.
After the sentencing, Ebrahimi said she was satisfied with Vistro/s prison sentence.
A nephew of Ferdinand Vistro, Felix Lung, expressed concern for the mental health of his uncle while in prison.
I don/t want him to take his life,C he said.
Lung described Vistro as a caring father from what he saw, and said he would like to see the Vistros and the Ebrahimis come together in harmony for the benefit of the three children.
Samantha Yale can be reached at 739-2159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.