Dawn Elaine Sanchez

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Above Images: Sanchez, circa 1991

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: August 30, 1991 from Los Altos, California
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: May 20, 1959
  • Age: 32 years old
  • Height and Weight: 4'11, 109 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Hispanic female. Black hair, brown eyes.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Sanchez was last seen in Los Altos, California on August 30, 1991. She lived in the now-defunct Four Seasons Motor Lodge motel in the 4300 block of El Camino Real at the time. She was last seen leaving the motel with her boyfriend, Bernardo Bass, in his tan and brown 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix with California license plates numbered 2NJN026. Sanchez has never been heard from again. She was reported missing in early October. She was involved in prostitution at the time of her disappearance, and had previously worked at a brothel in Nevada.

    Bass was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murdering Sanchez in October 1991, two months after her disappearance. A witness, William Alcorn, stated he traveled with Bass and Sanchez to a vacant lot near the Twin Creeks Softball Park in Sunnyvale, California, and after they spent sometime in the lot, Bass suddenly got back in the car with Sanchez, drove 100 yards and stopped. Alcorn said he heard the couple fighting, then the sound of a gunshot, and he saw Bass speeding away in his car. The videotape of the his statement was lost and Alcorn refused to testify against Bass, but authorities retained a written transcript of his account.

    In 1992 the charges against Bass were dropped for lack of evidence, but in 2007 the case was reopened and he was again charged with murder. He was already in custody on unrelated charges at the time. He has been described as a jealous, controlling boyfriend and Sanchez was allegedly afraid of him and didn't want to be alone with him. He reportedly broke into her apartment to look at her address book, and slashed the car tires of other men who were interested in her. He had told police he was only a client of Sanchez, but they found love letters he wrote to her saying he wanted to marry her and have children with her.

    The Grand Prix disappeared with Sanchez and has never been found. Shortly after Sanchez went missing, Bass's sister told police she sold the car because Bass asked her to. In 2008, she changed her statement and said she'd made up the story out of fear of her brother. When he was located in 2008 and asked to tell his story again, Alcorn invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify against Bass. Authorities believe Bass hid Sanchez's body in a closet in his home for some time after her death. They didn't find her body when they searched the home in 2007, but cadaver dogs indicated they smelled the scent of human remains.

    In August 2009, Bass pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in Sanchez's case. A no contest plea does not admit guilt, but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict if the case should go to trial. He was sentenced to six years in prison. With credit for time already served, he will probably be released after two years.

    Sanchez's body has never been found, but foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved. Some agencies give the date of her disappearance as September 20, 1991.

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Los Altos Police Department
    650-947-2770

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    Source Information
    California Attorney General's Office
    The San Jose Mercury News
    The Palo Alto Daily News
    The Contra Consta Times
    Unsolved in the News

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    Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated August 28, 2009; picture added, details of disappearance updated.

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