A Ventura County jury Wednesday watched a disturbing 50-minute videotape in which murder defendant Vincent Sanchez repeatedly rapes and threatens to kill a screaming 20-year-old woman as she begs him to stop.
During the homemade video, Sanchez grows increasingly angry with his uncooperative victim and orders her to be quiet. He repeatedly tells her “knock it off” as she whimpers and cries in pain.
At one point he asks her, “Would you rather die?” then unsheathes a large hunting knife and holds the blade to her throat. Blindfolded, she is unaware of the weapon.
Sanchez, 32, of Simi Valley, chose not to be present when the tape was played in Ventura County Superior Court.
He filmed the assault 3 1/2 years ago after abducting the woman from the driveway of her Simi Valley residence and raping her at his house. He has since pleaded guilty to 14 counts stemming from the assault, and has admitted raping or attempting to rape nearly a dozen other women. He faces the equivalent of a life prison sentence.
Sanchez remains charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and attempted rape in connection with the July 5, 2001, slaying of 20-year-old Moorpark College student Megan Barroso. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Before testimony began, prosecutors obtained court permission to show jurors three videotapes documenting Sanchez’s prior sexual assaults. The tapes were found at his Woodrow Avenue residence after housemates discovered one of the tapes and notified police.
In court papers, prosecutors argued that the videotapes offer the best evidence of how Sanchez interacted with his victims and behaved during the sex assaults.
But defense attorneys objected, arguing that the tapes are too disturbing to be shown. They feared the videos would prejudice the jury and jeopardize their client’s right to a fair trial. Superior Court Judge Ken Riley disagreed.
Out of concern for the privacy of the victims, Riley ordered the tapes sealed from public view and prosecutors situated a screen in the courtroom so only jurors could view the tapes. However, the audio portion could be heard and details of some images have been revealed through court papers and prior testimony.
On Tuesday, jurors watched the first videotape, involving a victim identified by the initials K.I., in which she complies with Sanchez’s demands and pretends to enjoy the encounter. She testified she wanted to do whatever was necessary for him to leave her house, and leave her alive.
Another victim, T.B., did not seem capable of such compliance.
From the start of the tape viewed by jurors Wednesday, she can be heard crying and pleading with Sanchez after he led her into his bedroom on Oct. 31, 1999.
She can be heard telling him, “Please, please don’t rape me.” He responds by ordering her to remove her clothes.
As the tape continues, he orders her to sit, stand, turn, cover her head, shield her eyes, lie in one position, and then another. She cries. He asks if it feels good. She says, “No.” Fifteen minutes into the tape, she screams in pain and he angrily tells her to stop crying.
“You are hurting me so bad,” she complains.
“You’re making it hurt worse, knock it off,” he responds. He curses at her and says later, “Would you rather die?”
As the tapes near the end, about 48 minutes into the assault, Sanchez instructs her to get up and take a shower. He tells her to wash her “privates” and then chats casually about what time she needs to be home.
“What are you going to say happened?” he asks. The victim tells him that she won’t tell anyone what occurred.
T.B. testified during the murder trial on May 7. She described how her assailant led her into a house and raped her three times on a sofa bed. She told jurors she heard a ticking sound that she thought might be a video camera.
She told the jury at first she was scared and fought him, “then I just waited for it to be over.”
In other testimony Wednesday, Sanchez’s former housemate, Josh Reno, told jurors that he confronted the defendant in mid-July 2001 when he noticed an assault rifle missing from his bedroom closet. Reno said Sanchez admitted taking the weapon without permission and returned it along with a small clip of ammunition.
That gun was later determined to be the rifle that killed Barroso. She died after being shot in her car as she exited the Moorpark Freeway.
Before Sanchez was linked to Barroso’s slaying, he was arrested on suspicion of burglarizing a neighbor’s house. Reno testified that one night after Sanchez went to jail, another housemate found a bag containing videotapes, photos, women’s jewelry and underwear.
Reno said they played one of the tapes. “I saw a girl on a bed who looked like she was scared out of her mind,” and a guy in a ski mask yelling at her. Reno said, “I was pretty sure it was Vince.”