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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

DNA Tests Point to Suspect in 1992 Rape and Murder

September 30, 2000

ORANGE COUNTY — Sheriff's investigators have obtained an arrest warrant for a man linked by DNA evidence to the rape and murder of a woman whose badly beaten body was found in an Irvine orange grove eight years ago.

Leonardo Pimentel Sanchez, 43, is suspected in the rape and murder of 18-year-old Cari Ann Parnes, an aspiring model who had just moved to Stanton from New York City when she was killed in 1992.

Authorities said the DNA match was culled from evidence taken in 1989 when Sanchez was in prison on a rape conviction. Sheriff's investigators asked the state to study samples that had been taken from the victim's body and matched them against a statewide database of convicted felons.

Larry Pool, an investigator in the sheriff's unsolved homicide detail, said such a match is rare.

Sanchez has been arrested 24 times, has used 29 aliases and 13 birth dates and has not been seen since 1993, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

"He's a very violent criminal," he said.

On the afternoon of March 26, 1992, Parnes' body was found by two orchard workers in an orange grove near the intersection of Trabuco and Jeffrey roads.

The body had been in the field as long as 10 days. It was in such a state of decomposition that it took authorities more than a year to make an identification, which they finally did by matching a thumbprint through Department of Motor Vehicles records, police said.

In February, DNA evidence originally removed from the victim's body was submitted to the state's Combined DNA Indexing System to be matched against a database of convicted felons in California.

It took only a month for authorities to make a "hit," investigators said. Sanchez' DNA sample was gathered in 1989, when he was serving a prison term for a 1984 rape. Amormino said.

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