A Cave Creek man who stabbed a woman to death before setting her house on fire has been sentenced to 23 years in prison, Maricopa County Superior Court officials announced this afternoon.
Justin Wade Lunsford pleaded guilty in to second-degree murder and arson of an occupied structure in the death of 29-year-old Mary Elisabeth Polgar in February. According to court officials, he was sentenced today to 18 years in prison for the murder and five years for the arson.
The sentences are to run consecutively.
On July 8, 2008, neighbors reported that Polgar's Cave Creek home was on fire.
Firefighters discovered Polgar's nude and nearly decapitated body in an unburned part of the house, with stab wounds on her head, neck, abdomen, back, and groin.
Lunsford became a suspect after it was reported that Polgar was last seen leaving a Cave Creek bar with him the night before her death.
During the investigation, a friend of Lunsford's told sheriff's deputies Lunsford told him that drug dealers had killed Polgar and that he was being framed for her murder.
The friend said Lunsford then doused Polgar's home and car with gasoline and set them on fire to destroy the evidence that would "frame" him.
Investigators located and arrested Lunsford using cell phone records nearly a week after Polgar's death.
*Matthew Hendley contributed to this post.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.