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Improved Forensics Link Man to 1984 Choking, Stomping Rape-Death of 84-Year-Old, D.A. Says

But a defense attorney questioned the decades-old evidence in the case.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

By PAUL ANDERSON
City News Service

Improved forensic technology and the discovery of microscopic blood flakes in a laboratory envelope link a man to the choking and stomping rape-murder of an elderly Anaheim woman nearly 30 years ago, prosecutor argued today, while a defense attorney questioned the evidence in the case.

Richard Stanley Sandoval, who was a transient at the time of the killing of 84-year-old Margaret Lenney, is charged with first-degree murder, with a special circumstances allegation of murder during a rape or attempted rape.

Sandoval's attorney questioned the DNA evidence that allegedly links his 60-year-old client to the Sept. 23, 1984, killing, prompting Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray to tell jurors in his closing argument that the prosecution of the defendant represented a "victory" for law enforcement.

"That evidence was preserved and nobody gave up on the case ... That case got worked and worked and worked for 30 years," he said.

Sandoval was arrested and questioned a couple of days after the killing, but the blood evidence on a switchblade he was carrying was not strong enough to lead to his prosecution, Murray said.

In the mid-1990s, when technology had evolved to include the analysis of DNA, the knife was swabbed,  but investigators still did not have enough conclusive evidence, according to Murray. With additional improvements in DNA technology over the next decade, investigators were able to show the genetic material of the victim and defendant on the weapon, Murray told jurors, adding that rape kit evidence also links Sandoval to the crime.

Sandoval was about to be released from state prison in Chino in April 2011 -- he was serving time for a 1985 rape in Anaheim -- when the DNA match was made, Murray said.

During the current trial, another woman testified Sandoval raped her, but he was not charged with that sexual assault.

Murray told the jury that in addition to the DNA evidence, Sandoval is a "serial rapist" who acknowledged to police in 1984 that he went to the victim's home the day she was killed.

Lenney hired Sandoval to paint the apartment complex where the victim lived, but she fired him when she concluded he did a shoddy job, Murray said.

Her body was found on her front porch with her pants and underwear pulled down and her shirt lifted up.

Forensic experts found the defendant's DNA on the woman when they did a rape kit examination, Murray said.

"I want you to hold this man responsible for the rape and brutal, savage murder of Margaret Lenney," Murray told the jury.

Sandoval's attorney, Peter Morreale, argued, "We don't know how the blood got on the knife," as he raised the issue that the evidence may have been contaminated over the years.

Sandoval had sex with the woman who testified against him during the trial, but it was consensual, Morreale said.

When Sandoval was detained by Anaheim police following Lenney's murder, he acknowledged he had been to the victim's home, his attorney said.

"He didn't lie about being the guy who painted the house. If he just killed an 84-year-old woman and stomped her to death would he admit being there" around the time of the slaying, Morreale said.

Carol June 20, 2014 at 12:44 AM
I'm sincerely glad to hear that technology is catching up with old evidence and some cold cases are being closed thanks to this. This is a terribly heinous crime that this criminal has been hiding all these years - let's hope this was his only victim...

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