SANTA ANA – A man suspected of killing an aspiring model – and sought by detectives for more than two decades across both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border – was booked in Orange County Jail.
Leonardo Pimentel Sanchez, 56, was extradited from Mexico and arrived in Orange County on Tuesday, said Investigator Dan Salcedo of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
With a lengthy record of convictions including rape, authorities said Sanchez dodged law enforcement for years using more than 27 different names and 19 birth dates. Even after he was named as a suspect in the 1992 rape and killing of 19-year-old Cari Ann Parnes, authorities say Sanchez eluded them by using false identities.
Parnes was raped and beaten in 1992, but it would be eight years before DNA evidence would link the crime to a suspect.
Though he had been arrested by Orange County police agencies at least 25 times since 1972 and served time in county and state lockups, Sanchez navigated through the system, officials said.
In a time before electronic databases and DNA identification become commonplace, Sanchez often came into contact with police without being connected to his extensive criminal past.
In 2000, investigators with the Sheriff’s Department identified Sanchez as a suspect in the slaying after his DNA matched evidence collected.
Yet no arrest was made.
Authorities suspected he had made his way to Mexico.
Then in November last year, Sanchez was taken into custody in Tijuana on accusations that he caused a disturbance at a business. Mexican authorities notified Orange County sheriff’s investigators that the man they had in custody matched Sanchez.
Sanchez did not contest extradition, Salcedo said. He was interviewed and expected to be arraigned later this week.
Sanchez is expected to be charged with the killing of Parnes, who moved to California at the age of 17 in hopes of becoming a model.
Her sister, Theresa Lopez, in an earlier interview said Parnes worked as a caregiver while trying to break into modeling. In March 1992, she went missing.
Their mother, Rosemarie Fekete, traveled from Connecticut to search for Parnes, not knowing her body had been found earlier along Trabuco Road.
Investigators suspected she was raped and beaten before she was left near an orange grove – the same site where authorities allege that Sanchez had raped another victim in 1984.
But Parnes’ body remained unidentified for a year.
Fekete and Lopez said they spent years without hope an arrest would be made. Then just before Thanksgiving last year, they were notified of the arrest in Mexico.
“He needed to be caught,” Lopez told the Register in November. “It was the best Thanksgiving. That made my Thanksgiving.”
By SALVADOR HERNANDEZ / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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