Leonardo Pimental Sanchez, a career criminal, was convicted Wednesday of killing an aspiring model more than two decades after her battered body was found in an Irvine orange grove, according to the O.C. Register.
Sanchez, now 59, was found guilty of first-degree murder, by an Orange County Superior Court jury, but the jury was not able to agree with the prosecution’s charge that the murder happened during a rape.
DNA evidence was found on the body of 19-year-old Cari Ann Parnes that tied Sanchez to the 1992 homicide.
Sanchez’s defense attorney, Adam Vining, admitted that his client had sex with Parnes, who was a prostitute, but he claimed that Sanchez did not kill her.
Parnes was murdered so long ago that an orange grove was located where her body was dumped, off of Jeffrey Road, back on March 26, 1992. Her body was fully clothed with fatal injuries including a bashed-in skull and a broken jaw.
Parnes came to California in 1990 to pursue a career in modeling. Unfortunately Parnes became a cocaine addict and her work transitioned from magazine shoots to private dancing to escort work and then finally to prostitution.
The murder case went cold until investigators ran sexual-assault swabs taken from the crime scene through newly created DNA tests in 1997.
The DNA test linked Parnes to Sanchez, who several years earlier had been convicted of a rape in a nearby orange grove. During the trial, jurors found out that the lesson Sanchez learned from his earlier conviction – which got him a five year prison sentence – was to not leave any witnesses alive.
Sanchez, a Mexican citizen, was finally found in Mexico, in 2014. Sanchez has been arrested at least 25 times in Orange County and deported six times. He used at least 27 aliases and 19 separate birth dates.
Sanchez’ defense attorney, Vining, actually resorted to blaming Parnes for her own murder, pointing out that she was leading a risky lifestyle and was known to rip off drug dealers or trade sex for drugs. He outlined the web of drug underworld ties that surrounded Parnes, and criticized detectives for supposedly not following up on numerous investigative strands.
Unfortunately Vining has filed a motion with the court arguing that the 25-year delay since the killing violated Sanchez’s right to a speedy trial. If the judge were to uphold the defense motion, the jury’s verdict could be thrown out.
To make matters worse, the jurors did not find that Sanchez murdered Parnes during a rape, so he is only facing 25 years to life in prison instead of facing life in prison without parole.