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Autopsy Inconclusive, Court Is Told

A post-mortem could not determine if Megan Barroso was raped before she died, the coroner testifies in Vincent Sanchez's trial.

June 03, 2003|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

There is no way to determine whether Moorpark College student Megan Barroso was sexually assaulted before she died because her body was badly decomposed, the Ventura County's chief medical examiner testified Monday.

But Medical Examiner Ronald O'Halloran told jurors weighing evidence in the murder trial of Vincent Sanchez that Barroso could have lived for hours -- perhaps up to a day -- after being shot because bullet fragments appeared to have missed vital organs.

O'Halloran said the 20-year-old Moorpark woman might have survived the attack if she had gotten prompt medical attention.

"If she had gotten treatment ... within half an hour of being shot, I think her survival chance would have been very good," the chief coroner testified.

Sanchez, 32, a Simi Valley resident and former construction worker, is charged with murder, kidnapping and attempted rape in connection with the slaying and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors have set out to prove that Sanchez, who has pleaded guilty to numerous sex assault charges involving a dozen women, tried to rape Barroso after firing an assault rifle into her car on July 5, 2001.

How long Barroso lived after being shot is key to their case.

Responding to questions by Deputy Dist. Atty. Lela Henke-Dobroth, O'Halloran said he believed Barroso was wounded but likely alive when she was pulled from her bullet-riddled car on New Los Angeles Avenue near California 23.

Bullet fragments did not appear to have hit the aorta, O'Halloran said. He acknowledged that fragments could have nicked her left kidney, but he said he believes otherwise.

"She probably would have survived at least minutes and possibly even hours -- theoretically many hours if no major blood vessels were struck," O'Halloran told jurors.

Jurors were shown graphic autopsy photos of Barroso's remains, which were found in a ravine southeast of Simi Valley on Aug. 4, 2001. The state of decomposition made it impossible to examine Barroso's body for sexual trauma.

Defense attorneys say there is no evidence of rape and are trying to show that Barroso could have died almost immediately after being shot.

Cross-examination is scheduled to resume today in Ventura County Superior Court.

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