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Jurors Say Murderer Should Die

Panel decides in favor of the death penalty for Simi Valley serial rapist Vincent Sanchez , who killed college student Megan Barroso in 2001.

September 05, 2003|Tracy Wilson and Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writers

After three days of deliberations, a jury Thursday decided that serial rapist Vincent Sanchez should be executed for killing a 20-year-old Moorpark College student during a kidnapping and rape attempt two years ago.

Sanchez, 32, a slight, dark-haired man who already faces a life prison term for a string of rape convictions, showed no reaction as Ventura County Superior Court Judge Ken Riley read the verdict before a crowd of hushed spectators.

Clad in a dress shirt and khaki slacks, Sanchez sat quietly next to his court-appointed attorneys as the death verdict was announced. The jury of seven men and five women looked on dispassionately as Riley asked each member to affirm their verdict.

Their decision concluded one of the longest trials in recent county history and ended a case that had cast a cloud of fear over a community routinely ranked as among the safest in the nation.

For five years Sanchez eluded arrest as the long-sought serial rapist who brazenly slipped into the homes of young women in suburban Simi Valley and raped at knifepoint.

He assaulted a dozen women before firing an assault rifle into the car of Megan Barroso as she drove home on July 5, 2001. Her partially clothed remains were discovered a month later in a ravine. Prosecutors argued that the killing was sexually motivated.

Lindsey Gross, a friend of Barroso and the last person to see her alive, smiled as the verdict was read and silently clasped her hands together. She asked to be seated on the aisle so she could gaze directly at Sanchez as the verdict was read.

Outside the courtroom, the 22-year-old Moorpark woman said the two years since Barroso's death have been "like a bad Lifetime movie."

She and her father, Ron Gross, attended several gruesome court proceedings, and Lindsey Gross testified during the trial about the last hours of Barroso's life.

"She was my touchstone. I strived to be like her," she said. "All I kept thinking is, What if it were me? She would want him to die."

Outside the courtroom, prosecutors Lela Henke-Dobroth and Dee Corona called the death verdict appropriate given the nature of the case.

"We believe this is a right and just verdict and one that has been a long time coming," Henke-Dobroth said.

Sanchez, a former construction worker who lived and grew up in Simi Valley, is to be formally sentenced Oct. 2. Deputy public defenders Jan Helfrich and Neil Quinn are expected to ask Riley to reject the verdict and sentence their client to life in prison without possibility of parole, a standard request in capital murder cases.

Quinn called the death sentence a "sad thing." After the proceeding, Quinn said, Sanchez appeared more concerned for his attorneys' feelings than his own fate.

"He is well guarded in his emotions and obviously he prepared himself for the worst," Quinn said.

During the four-month trial, Sanchez's attorneys conceded that their client shot Barroso, but argued there was no evidence to support the prosecution theory that Sanchez dragged Barroso from her car and tried to rape her before she died from a gunshot wound.

But prosecutors persuaded jurors that Sanchez fired six rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle at the car so he could abduct and rape Barroso.

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