Man found guilty in 1992 murder of Orange County model

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- A man who spent 20 years on the run has been found guilty in the 1992 death of an Orange County model.

Authorities said Leonardo Sanchez, now 59, raped, beat and murdered 19-year-old Cari Ann Parnes, an aspiring model.

Parnes' body was found in an orange grove off of Jeffrey Road in what is now the city of Irvine on March 26, 1992.

Prosecutors said Sanchez met Parnes at a party in Garden Grove and the two went to get alcohol together. Sanchez drove Parnes to an orange grove and raped her twice, catching her twice as she tried to run away, according to prosecutors.

Over the years, Sanchez was deported several times, only to return to the U.S. He had a long criminal history even before he met Parnes. In 1984, he served time for rape.

Due to a backlog, officials said Sanchez's DNA wasn't tested until 2000. Investigators said even after Sanchez was identified as a suspect, he eluded authorities by using nearly 30 different aliases over the years.

Nearly 12 years after Sanchez was identified as the suspect, he was arrested in Tijuana after causing trouble in a soup kitchen. He was later extradited to Orange County.

While Sanchez was convicted, jurors rejected a special circumstances allegation of murder during a rape. Sanchez faces up to 27 years to life in prison.

A sentencing date has not yet been set as a hearing will be held on Thursday for Sanchez's motion to have his case dismissed based on due process violations related to the time it took to bring it to trial.

Sanchez's attorney, Adam Vining, argued that his client had "consensual sex" with Parnes for $50 "so she could buy drugs." Vining also said investigators failed to track down multiple leads that could have pointed to other suspects in Parnes' death.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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