Ventura County prosecutors on Tuesday added three women to the list of victims of accused rapist Vincent Sanchez, who has been charged with the killing and attempted rape of 20-year-old Moorpark resident Megan Barroso.
News of the additional victims came as Sanchez's lawyer said his client is ready to plead guilty to a majority of the crimes, except any charges involving Barroso.
The new allegations were part of a grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday that charges the 30-year-old handyman with 79 felonies, 104 special allegations and three special circumstances that make him eligible for the death penalty.
A decision on whether to seek the death penalty has not been made and could take about two months, said Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Greg Totten. Sanchez's trial could start before the end of the year, he added.
"It was an intensive and troublesome investigation," Totten said during an afternoon news conference at the Ventura County Jail. "Our hearts go out to the many victims in this case. They should be recognized for their commitment, courage and strength."
In all, prosecutors allege that Sanchez committed or attempted to commit 46 sexual assaults on 15 women between September 1996 and last month, in addition to kidnapping, burglary, false imprisonment and carjacking.
The sex crime victims include Barroso, who was last seen alive July 5 leaving a friend's house after a holiday celebration. Her rental car was found abandoned and full of bullet holes about a mile from her Moorpark home at 2:30 a.m. the same day and her body was discovered a month later in a remote canyon near Sanchez's Simi Valley home.
The additional victims include two Ventura County women whom Sanchez allegedly tried to rape and a third woman from Woodland Hills who was kidnapped, raped and robbed four days after Barroso was reported missing.
The San Fernando Valley woman was tied up and kidnapped at knifepoint in Woodland Hills on July 9 and driven to Sanchez's Simi Valley home, where she was sexually assaulted for two days before being robbed of $41 in cash and her driver's license.
Totten said evidence found inside Sanchez's home, which was searched by police after his arrest July 27 on charges of burglarizing a neighbor's home, led authorities to the additional victims.
Ventura County Chief Deputy Public Defender Neil Quinn said he was disappointed that prosecutors had sought a grand jury indictment, considering that they had already charged his client with most of the crimes after his arrest.
Prosecutors often seek indictments--even after formal charges have been filed--because it allows a case to go from arraignment directly to trial and bypass a preliminary hearing, during which testimony is often presented.
Officials wanted to spare the rape victims from testifying more than needed, and the indictment prevents defense attorneys from cross-examining victims and other witnesses before trial.
"We feel the grand jury proceedings were not necessary to resolve the sexual assault charges," Quinn said. "Mr. Sanchez has acknowledged responsibility for multiple sexual assaults, and we are looking forward to resolving those charges relating to the break-ins and the sexual assaults in Simi Valley in a manner that minimizes any further trauma to the victims."
Quinn said his client adamantly denies the murder, attempted sexual assault and kidnapping of Barroso. The charges involving the Moorpark College student are what make Sanchez eligible for the death penalty.
If convicted of the other crimes not involving Barroso, Sanchez could be sentenced to 42 consecutive life terms, Totten said.
The crimes in the indictment include the 46 sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults, seven kidnappings or attempted kidnappings for the purpose of rape, 11 residential burglaries with the intent of committing sexual assault, four robberies, three carjackings, one count of false imprisonment, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon or by force likely to cause great bodily injury and one charge of second-degree burglary.
Totten said most charges also allege that Sanchez used a knife or gun during the crimes. An arraignment on the indictment is set for today. Sanchez previously pleaded not guilty to 57 of the same charges.
The latest counts involving the additional sex crime victims include a woman whom Sanchez allegedly tried to run down in his truck and attempted to kidnap for purposes of rape Oct. 1, 2000. The other victim had her house broken into on Sept. 26, 1996, and she was assaulted with the intent of rape.
According to prosecutors, Sanchez terrorized Simi Valley for more than five years, raping or attempting to rape young brown-haired women in their homes or in his vehicle after kidnapping them. The rapist's most active period was last year, when five women reported being attacked.
Authorities suspect Sanchez's violent conduct escalated to murder with the slaying of Barroso.
The engine was still running and blood was found inside Barroso's rented car. Authorities found assault rifle casings, part of an assault rifle and Barroso's shoes at the scene.
After a massive search, Barroso's half-clothed body was discovered Aug. 4 under brush in a canyon southeast of Simi Valley. The cause of death was an assault rifle wound to the abdomen.
During searches of Sanchez's vehicles and rental house on Woodrow Avenue, detectives found photographs and videos of naked women bound and gagged, Barroso's jacket and the AK-47 assault rifle that killed her, authorities say. Officials have refused to say whether Barroso and other victims were randomly sought or if Sanchez may have stalked them.
Times staff writer Tracy Wilson contributed to this story.