A Ventura County jury began deliberations Tuesday on whether rapist Vincent Sanchez kidnapped and killed a female college student two years ago during a sexual assault.
After 11 weeks of testimony, the seven-man, five-woman jury headed to a conference room at 4 p.m. to discuss the case for the first time. Superior Court Judge Ken Riley gave jurors the option of returning today to begin deliberations, but they said they wanted to get started immediately.
Sanchez, 32, of Simi Valley is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted rape in the slaying of Megan Barroso, 20. The Moorpark resident’s bullet-riddled car was found July 5, 2001, abandoned about a mile from her home. Barroso’s remains were found a month later in a ravine near Simi Valley.
As authorities investigated the disappearance, Simi Valley police arrested Sanchez in connection with a string of rapes that occurred in the city between 1996 and 2000. He was later arrested on suspicion of slaying Barroso.
Since then, Sanchez has admitted to sexually assaulting a dozen women and has pleaded guilty to charges that carry the equivalent of a life prison sentence. He has pleaded not guilty to charges in the Barroso case. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In arguments this week, prosecutors told jurors the evidence shows Sanchez shot up Barroso’s car, then abducted and sexually assaulted her before she died from an abdominal gunshot wound.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lela Henke-Dobroth said Sanchez attacked Barroso with the intention of raping her.
Barroso’s body was so badly decomposed when it was found that the coroner could not tell whether a rape had occurred, but Henke-Dobroth said the fact that Barroso was found partly clothed strongly suggests there was a sexual assault.
Deputy Public Defender Neil Quinn conceded that his client killed Barroso, but told jurors there is no evidence of a sexual assault.
Quinn said Sanchez was drunk when he recklessly fired on Barroso’s car. He urged jurors to find Sanchez guilty of a lesser charge of second-degree murder.