Daniel Devencenzi, sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter, dies in custody
Daniel Devencenzi’s court case continues to linger after his death.
Devencenzi, 34, sought a reduced sentence under a new law for his manslaughter conviction in Nevada County Superior Court. Sentenced early this year for the 2014 shooting death of Isaac Zafft, Devencenzi was transferred Jan. 4 to a state facility to serve his 11-year sentence.
Officials said he died April 25 at California Medical Facility in Vacaville. His wife, who visited him regularly, said he died of colon cancer.
Despite his death, Devencenzi’s request for a reduced sentence remains in court files. Prosecutors said the motion is now moot.
Defense attorney Kenneth Tribby, who represented Devencenzi, filed the motion in March asking for a reduced sentence. A new law states that someone must cause another person’s death, not merely be present during the crime, to be convicted of murder, or in Devencenzi’s case manslaughter.
Contacted by email, Tribby said he was sorry to learn of his client’s death. He had no further comment.
Prosecutors had until early this month to file a response to Tribby’s motion.
“We will not be filing anything in that regard,” District Attorney Cliff Newell said. “It’s a moot point, because he’s deceased.”
Three men faced murder charges in connection with Zafft’s death — Finley Fultz, 29; Nathan Philbrook, 35; and Devencenzi. Philbrook and Devencenzi pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April 2018. Fultz, who pleaded not guilty, went to trial on a murder charge. A mistrial occurred last autumn, and was followed in December by Judge Tom Anderson dismissing the murder case, citing prosecutor error.
Prosecutors appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. Fultz remains jailed pending the appeal.
Devencenzi’s death complicates the case against Fultz, Newell said.
The reason — his recorded testimony from the witness stand.
Devencenzi’s medical condition prohibited him from testifying in Fultz’s trial, necessitating a separate hearing that was recorded. That recording still exists.
At issue is what defense attorney Greg Klein, who represented Fultz at trial, called a “package deal” involving Devencenzi and Philbrook. Klein has argued the two men had to plead guilty together for prosecutors to honor the deal. Anderson has ruled that a witness is compelled to give certain evidence when a case relies heavily on accomplice testimony.
Klein didn’t know about the package deal when he questioned Devencenzi during the recorded hearing. Now he can’t question him again.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh has disputed the package deal characterization, saying it’s incorrect.
“Chris created this situation with Mr. Devencenzi,” Klein said, referring to Walsh. “These are the biggest mistakes I’ve ever seen in 35 years of practicing law.”
Walsh said he wanted to return Devencenzi to the witness stand for months but was opposed by Klein. The prosecutor wants to use the existing recording at a new trial for Fultz, if the District Attorney’s Office prevails in the appellate court.
“I hope Isaac Zafft isn’t lost in all this,” Walsh said. “We remain focused on him as the victim in this case.”
Devencenzi’s wife said in an email that she was with her husband until 8 p.m. the night before he died.
“Daniel was a good father and loving husband despite the mistake he made July 7, 2014,” Rhonda Devencenzi said. “He was truly sorry for what happened to Isaac Zafft and wanted justice for his family.”
Daniel Devencenzi was a diesel mechanic. He enjoyed dirt bike riding and cruising on his street bike. Above all he loved being with his family. He left behind his wife, a son, a stepson, parents and many siblings, Rhonda Devencenzi said.
A GoFundMe page for Devencenzi seeks to raise $3,000 for cremation and memorial service expenses. Any additional money raised will benefit his 8-year-old son.
The fundraiser had garnered $1,678 as of Wednesday afternoon.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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