SANTA ANA, California — A career criminal with 27 aliases, 12 dates of birth and five different driver’s licenses was convicted of the 1992 murder of an aspiring model whose body was found dumped in southern California orange grove.
Leonardo Pimentel Sanchez, a 59-year-old Mexican national who has been deported six times, was tied to the case through a DNA hit nearly a decade after the killing as authorities began running old rape evidence through the then-newly-created genetic database.
He remained free until 2012, when he was arrested in Tijuana by Mexican police and was eventually extradited to the U.S.
Sanchez was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1992 death of 19-year-old Cari Ann Parnes, whose decomposing body was found in an Irvine orange grove with a bashed-in skull and broken jaw.
Parnes had moved to California two years earlier to pursue a modelling career but developed a cocaine addiction and fell into prostitution. Prosecutors had accused Sanchez of raping Parnes, but the jury did not convict him of that charge. His lawyer admitted that Sanchez had paid Parnes for sex but insisted he did not kill her.
The case went cold until 2000, when Orange County investigators ran the DNA evidence collected from Parnes’ body through the newly-created database and got a hit connecting it to Sanchez.
He had previously been arrested 25 times in Orange County and had been convicted of raping a woman in an orange grove in 1984, officials said. At the time of the DNA hit, Sanchez had 27 aliases, 12 different dates of birth and five driver’s licenses.
An arrest warrant was issued for Sanchez but he remained at large until 2012 when he was picked up in Mexico for causing a disturbance in a business. Mexican authorities alerted officials in California and Sanchez was extradited the following year.
Sanchez faces a sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison.