Man Found Guilty of 1992 Cold Case Murder of 19-Year-Old Orange County Model

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man who was extradited to Orange County from Mexico was convicted on March 22 of murdering a 19-year-old woman in 1992. Leonardo Pimentel Sanchez, 59, Mexico City, Mexico, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of first degree murder.

The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. He also faces sentencing enhancements for two prior felony convictions for a 1978 robbery and a 1984 rape and digital penetration in Orange County. The defendant was arrested in Mexico in November 2012, and extradited to Orange County July 23, 2013, following extradition proceedings. A sentencing date has yet to be determined.

Between March 16, 1992, and March 19, 1992, Sanchez murdered 19-year-old model Cari Ann Parnes in an orange grove orchard in Irvine. Days later, field workers found her decomposing body. The victim had skull and jaw fractures due to blunt force trauma, and major hemorrhaging in her brain, neck, spine, and chest. The field workers called 911 and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) responded to the scene.

During the investigation in 1992, DNA collected from the victim’s body was tested, but no match was made and the case went cold.

Leonardo Sanchez booking photo (photo credit: Orange County DA)

The case remained unsolved for eight years until 2000, when the OCSDlinked Sanchez to the murder through DNA from the 1992 rape kit.  At the time of the DNA hit, the defendant had 27 aliases, 12 different dates of birth and five driver’s licenses. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued for Sanchez.

In November 2012, Sanchez was taken into custody in Tijuana for causing a disturbance in a business. The Mexican authorities notified OCSD investigators that they had Sanchez in custody and the extradition proceedings began.