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Death Penalty Sought in Killing of College Student

Crime: Prosecutors allege an unemployed Simi Valley man shot and attempted to rape Megan Barroso in July. He faces trial March 11.

January 12, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against an unemployed carpenter accused of killing and attempting to rape a Moorpark College student, authorities said Friday.

Vincent Henry Sanchez of Simi Valley faces a March 11 trial for allegedly shooting Megan Barroso as she drove home from a party, kidnapping her from her car and then trying to rape her, Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Lela Henke-Dobroth said.

The kidnapping and attempted rape charges make him eligible for the death penalty.

Sanchez, 31, already has pleaded guilty to rape, burglary and assault charges in connection with a series of attacks in Simi Valley. But he pleaded not guilty to other charges related to those crimes, including carjacking, sexual assault and kidnapping.

He is expected to be tried on those charges at the same time he is tried for Barroso's death.

Art Barroso, Megan's father, said prosecutors made the right decision in seeking the death penalty.

"I dread it but logically I cannot think of them not pursuing it," Barroso said. "It is good news for me. It is what we were looking for, and I have faith in the prosecutors."

But Chief Deputy Public Defender Neil Quinn, Sanchez's attorney, called the decision to seek the death penalty "a disgrace."

Quinn said prosecutors should have accepted an earlier plea by Sanchez and avoided a lengthy trial that could force rape victims to testify.

Sanchez Faces Multiple Life Sentences

In October, Sanchez pleaded guilty to 59 counts related to those crimes. For those crimes alone, he was facing multiple life sentences. He also offered a guilty plea in Barroso's death but prosecutors rejected it, saying they would not accept anything less than a plea to first-degree premeditated murder with special circumstances. Such a plea would have made him a candidate for capital punishment.

"They want to kill him, and the only way they can kill him is to prove that he raped her," Quinn said.

Authorities believe Sanchez accosted Barroso in the early morning of July 5. Her bullet-riddled rental car was found later that morning under a freeway overpass.

A month later her decomposed body was found by a search team at the bottom of a ravine off Black Canyon Road in the foothills south of Simi Valley.

Sanchez was arrested July 27 on suspicion of burglarizing a neighbor's Simi Valley home.

Evidence collected at his house led officers to arrest him in Barroso's killing as well as a series of sexual assaults in Simi Valley dating back five years.

Transcripts from testimony before the Ventura County Grand Jury detailed a crime spree that became increasingly violent and allegedly culminated with the killing of Barroso.

According to the transcripts, Sanchez threatened to kill his victims' relatives if the victims did not comply with his demands. During the assaults, he allegedly collected underwear and jewelry from his victims and videotaped them during sexual acts.

Sanchez could be executed if a jury accepts the prosecution's contention that he killed Barroso during an attempted rape.

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