A Contra Costa County Jail inmate was sentenced on Friday to 12 years in prison for the unprovoked killing of a 55-year-old nurse who was treating him while he was incarcerated in Martinez in 2010.
Aaron Nygaard, 38, received the sentence after pleading guilty in Contra Costa County Superior Court to charges of voluntary manslaughter with use of a deadly weapon in connection with the death of Cynthia Palomata.
Nygaard was originally charged with murder for Palomata’s killing but reached a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.
The deal was reached after psychiatrists told the court that they believed Nygaard fit the legal definition of insanity at the time of the killing, according to Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox.
Prosecutors said he suddenly attacked the victim while she was treating him for alcohol withdrawal in the jail on the afternoon of Oct. 25, 2010.
Hours after he was arrested for burglarizing an El Cerrito home, Nygaard faked a seizure in the hopes of being released from the holding cell where he was being held, authorities said.
While at the nursing station, after admitting that he had faked the seizure, Nygaard suddenly grabbed a lamp off of a desk and used it to strike Palomata in the head.
The victim, who had worked as a nurse in Bay Area hospitals for two decades and at the Martinez Detention Facility for five years, was taken to John Muir Medical Center where she died three days later.
The court heard from many of Palomata’s family members and former co-workers.
“She leaves behind a family who is grieving and misses her – it’s just a tragic loss of someone who was attempting to do good for those who needed her,” Knox said.