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The Region

Man Accused in Simi Valley Rapes Pleads Innocent

Court: Vincent Henry Sanchez faces 57 counts in connection with a series of alleged crimes over five years. He is also suspected in the death of Moorpark woman.

August 11, 2001|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Serial rape suspect Vincent Henry Sanchez, accused of assaulting 11 Simi Valley women over the past five years, pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday.

Sanchez, 30, who is also a suspect in the disappearance and slaying of a 20-year-old Moorpark woman, also pleaded not guilty to burglary and kidnapping charges during a brief hearing in Ventura County Superior Court.

Sanchez talked quietly with his attorney and peered from behind a courtroom window during the afternoon proceedings before Judge Ken Riley.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Lee asked the judge not to allow bail for Sanchez and requested that all information in the case pertaining to alleged sexual assault victims be sealed. She also asked Riley to order a blood test for Sanchez to determine whether he has the AIDS virus.

Deputy Public Defender Christina Briles said Sanchez remains in protective custody in Ventura County Jail after threatening to kill himself this week with metal broken off from his bunk.

"He's very nervous and very concerned," Briles said of her client, adding that Sanchez is on psychiatric medication.

Sheriff's officials said Sanchez did not try to kill himself, but confirmed that he was placed in solitary confinement. He is being kept in a cell 23 hours a day and allowed to bathe and watch television in a recreation room by himself for one hour a day, sheriff's spokesman Eric Nishimoto said.

"It's being done because of the high-profile nature of the case and for his own safety," Nishimoto said.

Sanchez, an unemployed handyman with a criminal record, was arrested last month in the sexual assaults. He has been charged with 57 criminal counts of assault, kidnapping and burglary in connection with a series of alleged crimes that authorities said began in 1996.

Sanchez faces consecutive life terms if found guilty of the rape charges and other allegations. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7.

Lee said she is awaiting results of DNA tests that she hopes will link Sanchez to at least three rapes. Briles said there is now no solid evidence linking him to the assaults.

Simi Valley police said Sanchez has a previous burglary conviction. He also spent time in prison for assaulting the child of a former girlfriend in 1992, according to court records.

In 1999, Sanchez pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of prowling at an ex-girlfriend's Meiners Oaks home. In January, his estranged girlfriend obtained a restraining order against Sanchez after he allegedly broke into her home and threatened to kill her.

His arrest last month came after a five-year investigation by Simi Valley police that included a six-member task force, analysis of hundreds of DNA samples and an FBI profile. But until Sanchez was arrested July 27 on suspicion of burglarizing a neighbor's home, police had no solid leads in the rape cases.

Shortly after his arrest, Sanchez was identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Megan Barroso after police seized an AK-47 assault rifle from the Woodrow Avenue home he shared with four roommates. The rifle was missing a part similar to one found near Barroso's bullet-riddled car after the Moorpark woman disappeared July 5, authorities said.

Authorities said they are still trying to determine whether the gun and the recovered gun part match. Barroso's mother has said sheriff's detectives have told her an olive jacket that was missing from her daughter's Moorpark apartment matched a jacket found during a search of Sanchez's home.

After a monthlong search, Barroso's decomposed body was found Aug. 5 in a remote section of Black Canyon about three miles southeast of Simi Valley. She died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, coroner officials said.

The dead woman's uncle, Martin Alvarez, sat in the front row during Friday's hearing waiting for Sanchez to appear.

"I just want to let him know that we're here," said Alvarez, 32, younger brother of Megan Barroso's father. "I wish I could just walk through the door and see him. There wouldn't be much talking."

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