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Ventura County

A Chilling Picture of Accused Killer

Crime: Vincent Sanchez studied his alleged victims, according to grand jury transcripts.

November 04, 2001|CATHERINE SAILLANT and STEVE CHAWKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Accused rapist and killer Vincent Sanchez methodically studied his victims before he allegedly attacked them. But he became increasingly violent and reckless as his personal life fell apart and the attacks increased.

That picture of Sanchez emerges in 1,145 pages of Ventura County Grand Jury testimony that tells a chilling story of an alleged crime spree that terrified Simi Valley residents for five years and escalated to the slaying of 20-year-old Moorpark College student Megan Barroso.

According to the transcripts, Sanchez, 31, made the effort to learn the names of some of his alleged victims. He allegedly videotaped one 15-year-old through her bedroom window as she changed into pajamas before attacking her.

He often threatened his victims by mentioning a family member, the transcripts state.

"Do you want me to kill your grandmother?" he told one woman as he covered her mouth to stifle her screams, the testimony states.

Sanchez's alleged five-year hunt for victims across Simi Valley and the western San Fernando Valley was revealed in more detail last week when the grand jury testimony finally became public.

Prosecutors say the unemployed carpenter targeted 15 women beginning in September 1996 and ending with the kidnap and rape of a Woodland Hills woman July 9. That was five days after he allegedly gunned down Barroso as she drove home from a Fourth of July party.

Sanchez, arrested in late July, faces trial on multiple sexual-assault charges and a first-degree murder count that could bring him the death penalty.

He has pleaded guilty to some of the assaults and his attorney has suggested he may admit to killing Barroso. But defense lawyer Neil Quinn has argued that Sanchez did not attempt to rape Barroso and thus should not face a possible death sentence in the case.

The transcripts show a brazen Sanchez, who allegedly broke into homes in the middle of the night by prying off window screens, breaking windows or slipping through sliding-glass doors.

Startled by a noise at 4 a.m., one woman, according to the transcripts, awoke to see a knife blade poking through her bedroom door jamb, working its way up toward her hook-and-eye lock. As she frantically tried to call 911, a man in a ski mask rushed in, covered her mouth and held the blade to her throat.

He allegedly marched her, crouching, to a hallway window and tried to pull her through. But he fled when the woman screamed and her mother rushed to her aid.

Authorities say a pair of the woman's turquoise panties was later found among Sanchez's possessions. According to the transcripts, he grabbed "trophies" such as underwear, jewelry and cameras from many of the crime scenes.

Sanchez allegedly took sexually explicit pictures of some of the women, their faces shrouded by a hood. A man's shadowy figure, clad in a black ski mask and leather gloves, appears on some videotapes shot during the assaults.

"Make it sound good," the man ordered one of the victims.

The transcripts chronicle desperate--and sometimes effective--resistance from a number of Sanchez's alleged victims, who testified before the grand jury between Aug. 16 and Sept. 4.

One said she had flailed at her attacker as he allegedly straddled her, reaching under his ski mask to scratch him with her fingernails.

"I screamed and screamed very loud and he proceeded to try to exit my bedroom," the victim told the grand jury. "I saw he was fumbling with the doorknob, and I decided I wasn't gonna let him just walk out of the house. I proceeded to jump onto him, to jump onto his back and try to find out who he was."

One woman who had taken self-defense training became combative with her attacker. As she lay on her bed, she pulled her legs up and kicked her attacker's chest so hard that he fell back into a closet. They struggled. He ran down a hall and fled.

Sanchez allegedly surprised one victim by tackling her in the hallway of her home. She kicked him and bit his finger, but he beat her with his fists, slammed her face with an empty beer bottle and choked her until she passed out, according to the transcripts.

Regaining consciousness, she grabbed a family photograph in an oak frame.

"I just hit him on top of the head as hard as I could, and he stuttered and stumbled," the woman told jurors.

When her attacker saw her brandishing a metal lamp, he capitulated.

"OK, OK, you win," he said. "I just have to find my mask."

After the attacks, according to the transcripts, Sanchez would sometimes try to soothe his victims, cuddling and whispering encouragement.

"You seem like a very good girl," the transcripts state he told one frightened woman he had allegedly taken from Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley and allegedly raped in his Simi Valley home. "You seem very pure. I can't believe I picked up someone as pretty as you."

Sanchez was "obsessed" with keeping his identity secret, prosecutor Lela Henke-Dobroth told jurors.

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