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He Admitted Rapes, Sanchez Jury Is Told

A Simi Valley detective testifies the murder defendant confessed to assaults before he was a suspect in the death of Megan Barroso.

May 15, 2003|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Weeks before authorities suspected him of killing a college student, handyman Vincent Sanchez admitted to police that he was the notorious serial rapist who had attacked a dozen women in Simi Valley during a five-year span.

Simi Valley Police Det. Kathleen Shatz testified Wednesday that Sanchez confessed to the string of sexual assaults two years ago after she arrested him on suspicion of rape.

"He said he didn't want to hurt the women," Shatz told jurors at Sanchez's murder trial, where evidence of the prior assaults is being offered to bolster the prosecution theory that he also tried to rape Moorpark College student Megan Barroso, whose decomposed body was found Aug. 4, 2001, a month after she disappeared.

Sanchez, a Simi Valley resident, admitted to Shatz that he targeted attractive young women in his neighborhood and studied them before entering their homes late at night, often by prying off window screens or slipping through sliding glass doors. He then raped or attempted to rape the victims at knifepoint.

Sanchez told Shatz that he had to use alcohol to get up the nerve to go into their rooms, although several victims testified in recent days that they detected no odor of alcohol on him.

Sanchez, 32, has pleaded guilty to numerous felony charges involving those sexual assaults and faces the equivalent of a life prison sentence.

But he still faces charges of killing Barroso, 20, during an alleged rape and kidnapping on July 5, 2001. Defense lawyers do not dispute that Sanchez fatally shot Barroso while firing an assault rifle at her car that night but contend there was no kidnapping or rape attempt.

The distinction is significant because the allegations, if proven, would allow prosecutors to ask for the death penalty.

On Wednesday, jurors heard testimony from four Simi Valley police officers involved in Sanchez's arrest and the five-year serial rape investigation.

One officer testified that he arrested Sanchez in July 2001 on suspicion of burglarizing a neighbor's home. He told jurors that the defendant later admitted to stealing items that included a shower head, a vacuum cleaner and curtains.

While in custody, Sanchez called one of his roommates and asked him to get rid of a bag he had placed in a recycling bin outside their Woodrow Avenue home.

Inside the bag, the roommate found women's underwear and jewelry, as well as photographs and videotapes of naked women posing in sexual positions for a man wearing a ski mask. The roommate immediately called 911, according to court testimony.

Officer Stephen Collett collected the items from the roommate on July 28, 2001, and showed them to Shatz the same night. She testified that she recognized some of the rape victims from the photos. The next day, detectives obtained a warrant to search the Woodrow Avenue house and she arrested Sanchez at county jail.

Det. Jay Carrott testified that during the search, authorities found a plastic bag of knives in the side yard, a camera that belonged to an assault victim and handcuffs believed to have been used on a rape victim a few weeks earlier.

Carrott and Collett both testified that police officers found clothing and other debris around the yard that was not seized that day, including a green jacket investigators now believe belonged to Barroso and was worn by her at the time she was shot.

"It was deemed not significant by the officer who was searching the area," Carrott testified.

Sanchez had not been linked to Barroso's disappearance at the time officers searched the Woodrow Avenue home. Her body was found in a ravine near Simi Valley about a week later.

Ventura County Sheriff's Department investigators seized the jacket during a later search.

Testimony is scheduled to resume today with cross-examination of Shatz.

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