A woman raped by murder defendant Vincent Sanchez told jurors at his trial Thursday about a harrowing incident four years ago in which an assailant abducted her at gunpoint from her Simi Valley home and took her to a dirt field where he sexually assaulted her.
Identified by her initials, J.K., the woman told jurors she was talking on the phone with her boyfriend on the night of May 4, 1999, when an intruder in a ski mask burst into her bedroom, ordered her to undress and led her to her car. She was wearing only her underwear.
As he drove from the house, the kidnapper told her not to look at him.
“He put the gun to the back of my head and pushed my head down,” she testified. “I asked him if he was going to kill me and he said it was up to me whether I live or die.”
At some point, the assailant stopped the car and forced J.K., then 25, to walk barefoot up a dirt trail to a location where he photographed her, forced her to perform sex acts, raped her and attempted to sodomize her, she said.
He later discussed religion with her and eventually drove to a location near her home where he got out of the car and fled.
Throughout the testimony, Sanchez, 32, of Simi Valley, sat hunched over the defense counsel table in Ventura County Superior Court. He took notes and never looked at J.K. as she fixed her eyes on him while recounting the incident.
J.K. was the fourth assault victim to testify in the murder trial. Three other women described in court Wednesday their attacks by a masked assailant, who prosecutors contend was Sanchez.
J.K. could not identify Sanchez, but he has previously pleaded guilty to criminal charges that include rape, kidnapping and burglary in connection with the assault.
Prosecutors called J.K. along with two other female victims Thursday to bolster their theory that Sanchez is a rapist who intended to sexually assault a 20-year-old Moorpark College student who died after being shot by him two years ago.
Sanchez is charged with murder, attempted rape and kidnapping in connection with the July 5, 2001, shooting of Megan Barroso. If convicted, he faces the death sentence or life in prison.
Prosecutors allege Sanchez fired an assault rifle at Barroso’s car to stop her as she exited the Moorpark Freeway. They contend he then removed her from the car and took her to another location where he tried to rape her before she died.
Sanchez’s lawyers do not dispute that he shot Barroso, but say there is no evidence of a sexual assault.
Instead, they contend Sanchez was mentally unstable and exploded into an alcohol-fueled rage when he fired the rifle. They have also suggested that the attack on Barroso was quite different than the prowler-like assaults Sanchez committed previously.
In other testimony Thursday, a second rape victim told jurors she was also confronted by an intruder inside her Simi Valley home and forced to drive with him to another residence where she was sexually assaulted. She was 20 at the time.
The woman testified that after the March 16, 2000, assault, the rapist told her he wanted to marry her and have children together. He also asked if he could spend the night at her house. She testified that she tried not to upset him during the incident and told him he couldn’t stay because her father would be home.
Sanchez has previously pleaded guilty to rape and other charges stemming from the incident.
Later in the day, a third Simi Valley woman took the stand and angrily recalled a Nov. 9, 2000, assault during which she fought off an intruder wearing a ski mask.
She testified that she was home alone and headed to bed after falling asleep in front of the living room television when a man suddenly appeared and tackled her to the floor. He bound her hands and feet with duct tape and cord, and dragged her to her bedroom.
There, she was able to get free of the restraints, at which point he flew into a rage.
“I knew it was time to fight,” she testified, describing a violent struggle in which they exchanged punches, slaps and bites. At one point, she said, he smashed a beer bottle over her head and choked her. She told the jury: “He was trying to kill me.”
She eventually was able to unmask the assailant, get free of his grasp and smash a wooden picture frame over his head, at which point he told her: “You win.”
He then collected his ski mask and left, she said.