SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former Camp Pendleton Marine convicted of raping and strangling a masseuse in a downtown San Diego massage parlor almost 36 years ago was sentenced Friday to seven years to life in prison.
Leon Johnson, 58, was given the sentence that was in effect at the time of the Nov. 22, 1975 killing of 27-year-old Angelina Luz Borrayo.
Johnson already was serving a life prison term for murdering a 55-year-old store clerk in Mississippi in 1982 when he was returned to California for prosecution in the Borrayo case. He was connected to the San Diego case through a national DNA database.
Judge Charles Rogers called it "a classic cold case" in which detectives went through past cases and applied new techniques.
Deputy District Attorney Andrea Freshwater said Johnson and a fellow Marine went to the Twilight Massage Parlor on Fifth Avenue the night Borrayo was strangled.
Borrayo would turn an occasional "trick" to make some extra money, Freshwater said.
A co-worker reported that Borrayo went into a room to give a man named "Leon" a massage, then came out and turned on a jukebox so the victim could go back in the room and have sex with him, the prosecutor said.
Above the music, the co-worker thought she heard "thumping" from the massage room, and Johnson emerged by himself about 45 minutes later with a "disgusted" look on his face, Freshwater told the jury.
When Leon and the other Marine left, the co-worker found Borrayo's partially nude body and called police. Part of the victim's dress was wrapped tightly around her neck and she had scrapes on her neck from trying to ward off the attack, the prosecutor said.
The victim's daughter, identifying herself as Maria D., told the judge she was a 7-year-old only child when her mother was killed.
"It was very hard for me to understand why I couldn't see my own mother again," the woman said. She said she often wondered if she had done something wrong, resulting in her mother being taken away as punishment.
She said the family refused to speak of the circumstances behind Borrayo's death.
It wasn't until Johnson's arrest that family members who had been children at the time learned the truth, Freshwater said.
Johnson's semen was found on a sheet that covered a massage table, and DNA from that stain was entered into a national database, eventually getting a "hit" on his DNA profile, the prosecutor said.
She said Johnson also raped a convenience store clerk in Alabama a year after Borrayo was killed, and the rape victim had bruises on her neck similar to Borrayo.
Defense attorney Michael Garcia argued that Johnson's DNA, along with DNA from many unidentified males, was found in the massage parlor, which he said doubled as a house of prostitution.
Garcia contended the killer could be one of many unidentified military men who left their DNA behind while having sex with the victim.
"Mr. Johnson was there at some point," but was not guilty of raping or murdering Borrayo, Garcia said.
The judge ordered Johnson returned to Mississippi to serve out his term there. If his imprisonment in that state was ever deemed completed, he will be returned to California, he said.
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