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Jury Sees Video of Sexual Assault

The tape of the prior crime is played at the Ventura County murder trial of Vincent Sanchez.

May 21, 2003|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

Before sexually assaulting a woman as she bled from a knife wound, serial rapist Vincent Sanchez set up a video camera in her bedroom and ordered her to perform for him and "make it look good."

Jurors in Sanchez's murder trial, in which he stands accused of the fatal shooting of Moorpark College student Megan Barroso, watched the 45-minute videotape in stoic silence Tuesday after hearing the emotional testimony of the victim the day before.

Identified by her initials, K.I., the woman had testified that after returning home from a night class on Feb. 10, 2000, an assailant in a ski mask jumped out of a closet in her Simi Valley townhouse, wrestled her to the kitchen floor and held a large knife to her throat.

As she struggled, she said, the intruder pushed her down and the knife went through her lower leg, pinning it to the kitchen floor.

"I realized I had just been stabbed," she testified. "I started giving up, calming down. I was exhausted."

The assailant then led K.I., who was 34 at the time, to an upstairs bedroom where he raped her four times and forced her to engage in sex acts before a video camera. Throughout the five-hour ordeal, she said, she pleaded for medical attention but he refused, telling her he didn't want her to report him to police.

The testimony is significant for the prosecution's case against Sanchez, 32, of Simi Valley, who is charged with murder, kidnapping and attempted rape in connection with the July 5, 2001, shooting of Barroso.

Prosecutors allege that Sanchez shot Barroso, 20, near a freeway offramp in Moorpark as she drove home from a friend's house about 3 a.m. They contend that he pulled her from the shot-up car and tried to rape her before she died from an abdominal bullet wound.

Barroso's remains were found a month later in a ravine near Simi Valley. The medical examiner has previously stated that she might have survived if she had received hospital care.

Sanchez's lawyers do not dispute that he shot Barroso, nor that he is a serial rapist who assaulted a dozen women between 1996 and 2001, including victim K.I. But they argue that there is no evidence of a sexual assault in the Barroso case.

They contend that Sanchez was mentally unstable and exploded into an alcohol-fueled rage when he fired at her car. They have also suggested that the attack on Barroso was different from the prowler-like assaults Sanchez committed in the past.

If convicted of first-degree murder and related allegations, Sanchez faces a death sentence or life in prison without parole. He already faces the equivalent of a life sentence after pleading guilty to the previous sexual assault charges.

Superior Court Judge Ken Riley has allowed prosecutors to present evidence of the prior sexual assaults, including testimony from those victims and videotapes of three attacks.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Lela Henke-Dobroth told Riley this week that she had intended to play only one tape in court, involving a victim with the initials T.B., allowing jurors to view the other two recordings during their deliberations.

But Chief Deputy Public Defender Neil Quinn asked that the videotaped assault of K.I. also be played for jurors to impeach some of her testimony about the encounter.

To protect the privacy of the rape victim, a viewing screen was situated in such a way that only the jury could see the film. Spectators could hear Sanchez's demands for K.I. to assume certain positions and the sounds of her heavy breathing.

According to her testimony Monday, K.I. pretended to enjoy herself and acted like a willing participant after he threatened to kill her dog. "He said, 'If you don't cooperate I'll slit her throat and you can watch her die,' " she testified.

"I was terrified," she said. "I wanted him to get what he came for and get out of my house and out of my life."

Sanchez was not present when jurors watched the videotape. On Monday, Sanchez sat at the defense counsel table as K.I. fought tears while she recounted the attack.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly expressed concern that emotional testimony from the rape victims, as well as the sex assault videotapes, could prejudice jurors and prevent Sanchez from receiving a fair trial.

On Monday, they tried to balance the raw emotion of K.I.'s testimony by questioning the severity and circumstances of the leg injury and eliciting additional details about Sanchez's behavior after the sex assault.

K.I. acknowledged that no photographs were taken by police that show the depth of the leg wound or an exit mark where the knife allegedly poked through her calf.

She acknowledged that Sanchez "cuddled" her for an hour after the rapes and tried to doctor her wound with adhesive bandages. She also testified that he read biblical passages to her and urged her to read the book of Revelation.

K.I. told jurors that it was her impression that Sanchez thought the event was some sort of romantic interlude. She said that at one point he apologized and asked her whether she could forgive him.

"I said, 'Can you forgive yourself?' " she testified.

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