Calif. Man Sentenced for Killing Girlfriend with Ice Ax: 'Only a Monster Would Do Such a Thing'

Daniel Gunnarsson and Katie Pham had been in a romantic relationship for about a month before the murder, prosecutors said

<p>Kern County District Attorney</p> Katie Pham

Kern County District Attorney

Katie Pham

A California man was sentenced for killing his girlfriend with an ice ax at a relative’s home, where painters arriving to complete a job made the grim discovery.

Daniel Gunnarsson, 23, was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life in prison plus an additional two years and four months, KGET-TV reported from the courtroom.

Gunnarsson was found guilty by a Kern County jury on Aug. 30 of first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon and mutilation of a corpse in the death of 21-year-old Katie Pham, according to a news release from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

On May 18, 2021, deputies with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office were called to a Ridgecrest, Calif., home and found a woman — later identified as Pham — with trauma to her body, according to a statement posted to Facebook. She was pronounced dead at the scene and deputies arrested Gunnarsson on a murder charge later that day.

According to the D.A.’s office, Gunnarsson and Pham had been in a romantic relationship for about a month before the murder. Prosecutors said Gunnarsson displayed animosity towards Pham and expressed what his friends believed to be suicidal behavior.

On the morning of the killing, Gunnarsson went to his stepfather’s home in Ridgecrest and “discussed his failing relationship” with Pham, prosecutors said. He called her and apologized, then picked her up at her apartment and brought her back to his stepfather’s house.

When they arrived, Gunnarsson led Pham into the RV garage. A short time later, painters arriving to complete a job at the house, reportedly heard a woman screaming as well as a “shuffling of items.” After about an hour passed, the painters opened the door to the garage, where they found Pham dead on mattress topper and Gunnarsson covered in blood.

<p>Kern County District Attorney</p> Daniel Gunnarsson

Kern County District Attorney

Daniel Gunnarsson

According to the D.A.’s office, ​​Pham was partially unclothed and lying face down. The painters went to the stepfather for help and called 911.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Prosecutors said evidence showed that Gunnarsson put on gloves, which were found at the scene, then used a 24-inch-long ice ax to strike Pham in the head, face, and neck more than 10 times. After the murder, Gunnarsson repositioned Pham and proceeded to touch her body in a “sexual manner.”

“Only a monster would do such a thing,” Pham’s grandmother, Sheila Rockwell, told KGET-TV.

Pham was remembered by loved ones who spoke with the outlet as a hardworking young woman who loved animals.

According to KGET-TV, Gunnarsson’s defense attorney argued someone else could’ve gone into the garage and killed Pham.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.