By PAUL ANDERSON
City News Service
A felon was found guilty today of the choking and stomping rape-murder of an elderly Anaheim woman who hired him to do a painting job nearly 30 years ago.
Richard Stanley Sandoval, who was a transient at the time of the Sept. 23, 1984, killing of 84-year-old Margaret Lenney, was convicted of first-degree murder, and jurors found true a special circumstances allegation of murder during a rape or attempted rape.
He'll be sentenced on Aug. 8 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sandoval's attorney questioned the evidence linking his 60-year-old client to the killing, while Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray told jurors that improvements in processing DNA evidence since the murder helped authorities crack the case.
"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 linked 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 Sandoval is a "serial rapist," and noted that he 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.
Sandoval's attorney, Peter Morreale, argued that the evidence may have been contaminated over the years, and "we don't know how the blood got on the knife."
Sandoval had sex with the woman who testified against him during the trial, but it was consensual, Morreale said.