A man who gunned down his business associate in his Wine Country bed-and-breakfast was sentenced today to 37 years to life in prison.
Louis Joseph DiBernardo, 61, was convicted of second-degree murder in the May 12, 2010, slaying of 60-year-old Victor Borcherd.
The killer and his victim were locked in a legal battle over ownership of the B&B. DiBernardo's attorney claimed the victim was bilking his client by not paying rent in an attempt to bankrupt him. Then, DiBernardo would lose the house, and the Borcherds were working with the bank to buy it out from under him, the defense argued.
DiBernardo said he hopes God will forgive his victim for what he did before he was led away in shackles, according to the Press-Enterprise.
Prosecutor Brandon Smith was shocked at DiBernardo's "incredible selfishness," he said.
"You are not the victim here," Smith told DiBernardo during the hearing.
This was the second time that DiBernardo had been tried in the case. Last December, another jury found him guilty of kidnapping and making criminal threats, as well as sentence-enhancing gun use allegations, , leading to the retrial on that count.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez imposed the sentence required by law for the murder count and handed down the maximum punishment -- eight years -- for the kidnapping of the victim's wife.
The confrontation between DiBernardo and Borcherd occurred at the Castle Bed & Breakfast in the 35000 block of Loma Ventosa Lane. The wine country lodge was owned by the defendant and operated by the victim.
In June 2009, Borcherd and his wife, Suzanne, signed a lease agreement with DiBernardo, committing to operate the B&B while living on the premises. A few months later, the Borcherds entered into a superseding contract that stipulated they would purchase the inn the following year, according to court papers.
DiBernardo declared the agreement void, however, after the Borcherds failed to pay him rent. The couple sued him in January 2010, alleging breach of contract.
Deputy District Attorney Brandon Smith said that on the day of the shooting, Victor Borcherd was away from the inn on business when DiBernardo broke in and took Suzanne Borcherd hostage.
The defendant duct-taped the woman's hands behind her back and forced her at gunpoint to stay in a downstairs bedroom, according to trial testimony. Smith said DiBernardo repeatedly threatened to shoot the victim and her husband, who returned about two hours later and was immediately confronted by the defendant.
According to the prosecution, as Victor Borcherd tried to get close to his wife, DiBernardo shot him in the stomach, a wound from which he died a short time later. The defense argued the shooting was accidental.
and told said Borcherds lunged for him, and he stumbled back into a book case, accidentally firing his gun into the victim's abdomen.