Man Held Accountable for the Death of Woman 18 Years Ago

Release date: 02/14/2017
Sponsored by: District Attorney Department

State v Efrain Sanchez-Diaz aka Luis Hernandez-Diaz (C990462CR)

On February 9, 2017 a Washington County jury unanimously found defendant Efrain Sanchez-Diaz guilty of murdering 21 year-old Maria Garcia Leonardo eighteen years prior on February 12, 1999.

The guilty verdict came just three days shy of the eighteenth anniversary of the murder and represented the end of years of work by the Tigard Police Department and the Washington County DA's Office to hold the defendant accountable for his crime.

In February 1999, the defendant murdered the victim by stabbing her in the heart outside of a Tigard Burger King where she worked. Prior to the murder, the defendant had a history of domestic violence against the victim. Immediately following the stabbing, the defendant fled the scene and the country to Mexico where he remained a fugitive. Shortly after the murder, the DA's Office obtained an Indictment and Arrest Warrant, but the defendant could not be located. Eventually, after years of working to extradite the defendant, Mexico agreed to release him in March 2016.

Although several years had passed since the murder in 1999, the Tigard Police Department and Washington County DA's Office were able to put forth a strong case based on eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence. Scientists from the Oregon State Police Crime Lab matched fingerprints from a soda cup found at the scene to the defendant. A DNA analysis of a sweatshirt found at the scene revealed blood from the victim on the sleeve and DNA from the defendant on the inside neck. Multiple civilians came forward and provided vivid testimony about what they recalled eighteen years prior. The victim's brother traveled from another state to testify as well.

The case was prosecuted by Chief Deputy District Attorney Kevin Barton and Deputy District Attorney Nadya Martin. Immediately following the verdict, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Eric Butterfield sentenced the defendant to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years.