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  1. #1
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    Richard Joseph Hirschfield - California Death Row




    In what could be a watershed moment in the Davis "sweethearts" murder trial, a judge today denied a motion by defense lawyers to delay the case to mid-June.

    Jury selection is currently scheduled to begin on March 19 for defendant Richard Hirschfield, who is accused in the Dec. 20, 1980, stabbing deaths of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.

    Defense attorneys Linda Parisi and Ken Schaller asked Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet to move the case back to give them more time to nail down a commitment from a mitigation expert they intend to hire if the Hirschfield case proceeds to the death penalty phase.

    HIrschfield, 63, was arrested and charged in 2004 in the case in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on the special allegations of multiple murders and murders during the course of a sexual assault.

    Parisi said outside court today that the defense team erred in not obtaining a mitigation expert earlier in the proceedings. She said in court that she and Schaller are currently in contact with an expert in the Bay Area but that he couldn't assure them that he will be available to work the HIrschfield case until he knows whether the trial could be delayed until June.

    Mitigation experts are mandated under a U.S. Supreme Court decision for death penalty defenses. Among their responsibilities are investigating the social history of the defendant to be presented to jurors during the penalty phase of the bifurcated capital punishment trials.

    Sweet said that litigation over the pretrial motions in the case in all likelihood will push jury selection beyond the scheduled March 19 date. But he declined to set a new trial date, saying that they can start calling in jury panels as soon as they get the pretrial motions resolved.

    "We need to keep moving," Sweet said from the bench.

    Ginger Swigart, the aunt of Sabrina Gonsalves, said the families of the two 18-year-old victims welcomed the judge's decision in the case that is now more than 31 years old.

    "There is light at the end of the tunnel' Swigart said.

    http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archiv...arts-case.html

  2. #2
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    It turned out the 18-year-old UC Davis sweethearts had been abducted after helping put on a performance of the Davis Children's Nutcracker at the Veterans Memorial Theatre. Their bodies were found two days after their Dec. 20, 1980, disappearance. Their throats were slashed and Gonsalves had been sexually assaulted.
    Thirty-two years later, Richard Joseph Hirschfield, 63, is on trial for murder in the killings. He has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers claim four people previously charged with the murders in Yolo County, but later cleared, carried out the killings. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
    On the second day of testimony in Hirschfield's trial, it was Cecelia Riggins, known to her friends and family as Kate, who garnered major attention from the jury when she recounted the last time she saw her son alive and the panic of the day that followed.
    Riggins testified for about 15 minutes under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet. Defense attorneys Linda Parisi and Ken Schaller did not cross-examine her.
    Asked by Bladet if she recalled her last encounter with her son, Riggins replied, "I remember it very well."
    It was in the middle of the afternoon on the day of his disappearance. John Riggins, who lived with his parents, came home after finishing the last final exam of the first quarter of his freshman year.
    "We had been very ill," Riggins said of herself and her husband, Dr. Richard Riggins. "We were recovering. We were planning to go to dinner, but John had to go to Sabrina's sister's birthday party."
    When the two turned up missing, Kate Riggins said she put out the call to John's friends to search the fields surrounding Davis for signs of the 1977 Chevy van he and Gonsalves used the night before. A tule fog had blanketed Davis. She thought they might have crashed.
    The next day, police officers and sheriff's deputies from three different law enforcement agencies confirmed an even worse outcome.
    Folsom Police Detective Robert Repar got a call from a witness who saw a van that matched the description of the vehicle that had now become the subject of media interest. Repar headed to the possible sighting, a field off Folsom Boulevard, about 30 miles east of where Riggins and Gonsalves had last been seen leaving the theater in Davis about 8:45 p.m. two nights earlier.
    Poking around in the field, the since-retired Repar spotted a boot.
    "As I looked close, I discovered there was still a leg in the boot," Repar testified.
    The detective had found the body of Sabrina Gonsalves in a 6- to 7-foot-deep ravine. She was lying facedown, with her skirt pulled up.
    A few feet away, Repar found the remains of John Riggins, lying on his back.
    Repar's discovery took place around 10 a.m., about two hours and 15 minutes after Sacramento sheriff's deputies had been dispatched to investigate what turned out to be the Riggins van. It was parked in a dirt area, just off Folsom Boulevard, about a mile west from where the detective found the bodies.
    Although the dispatch time on the sighting of the van was recorded at 7:46 a.m. on Dec. 22, retired sheriff's patrol commander Lt. Terrell W. Dyer said he spotted the van around 2 a.m. Dec. 21 when he went out on an unrelated call.
    Dyer noted in his mind the odd location of the vehicle, on a grassy, gravel swath in an empty field.
    "It shouldn't have been there," he said.
    Former Sacramento Sheriff's Deputy Ray Dick was first to check out the van. He peeked inside and saw "boxes and what looked like torn Christmas wrapping lying around inside the van."
    Investigators later found a blanket inside the van. It contained a semen stain that prosecutors say clicked back, 22 years later, to the genetic profile of Richard Hirschfield.
    Dick learned later about the discovery of the bodies. He knew the ravine as a place you would not happen upon "by chance." It had gained a reputation for "a lot of drug activity," he testified, a dumping ground for stolen cars.
    Carol Daly, the retired Sacramento undersheriff, was a homicide detective at the time of the killings. She narrated a video taken when investigators descended on the body recovery area. The video depicted a cold, gray day, and its showing to the jury was met by pin-drop silence in the courtroom

    Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2012/09/06/236...#storylink=cpy

  3. #3
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    Witness puts Hirschfield in Davis in year before murders

    Two prosecution witnesses established important connections in the Richard Hirschfield murder trial today, one of them putting the defendant in Davis in a time frame relatively close to the killings of two UC Davis students. Another said Hirschfield's brother lived in a mobile home park close to where the bodies of the two victims were found.

    David Jones testified he knew Hirschfield from when they went to high school together in Colusa in the 1960s. Jones said HIrschfield came to visit him when he went to college at UC Davis. One of the visits, Jones said, was at a duplex where he lived on Benecia Court in 1979. The residence was located about a block away from where Sabrina Gonsalves lived the next year, before she was killed.

    Another witness, Sharon Green Schneider, said Hirschfield's brother, Joseph, rented space in a mobile home park she managed on Mills Station Road in Rancho Cordova. The park was located about eight miles from where the bodies of Gonsalves, 18, and her boyfriend, John Riggins, also 18, were discovered two days after their Dec. 20, 1980, disappearance from Davis.

    Hirschfield, 63, is accused of murdering the two UC Davis freshmen and sexually attacking Gonsalves. He is facing the death penalty if he is convicted.

    In additional testimony today, another friend of Hirschfield's from his high school days in Colusa County said the defendant came to visit him a year or two after the Riggins and Gonsalves murders. The witness, Gene Beauchamp, said Hirschfield told him he'd just gotten out of prison but that "if they would have got me for what I really did, I'd still be there."

    Beauchamp said he asked Hirschfield what he did, to which he said the defendant replied, "If I told you what I did, I'd have to kill you." Asked if Hirschfield was joking, Beauchamp testified, "Oh, no. He was serious."'

    The conversation took place, Beachamp said, on his isolated ranch on a dirt road about a mile off Highway 45 in Colusa County.

    His stepdaughter, Kimi Marie Baxter, testified she was about 17 when Hirschfield paid a return visit to the property a year or so later. Baxter said she was home alone when she saw Hirschfield's car coming up the road. She said she called her father.

    When Hirschfield pulled up, "I told him my father was coming," Baxter testified. She said that Hirschfield then quickly departed, saying only, "I've got to go."

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archiv...#storylink=cpy
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  4. #4
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    Hirschfield a 1-in-340 trillion DNA match, criminalist says



    A state Department of Justice criminalist testified today that Richard Joseph Hirschfield's DNA profile is a one-in-340 trillion match to a semen stain linked to the killings of two UC Davis students 32 years ago.

    "This is strong evidence that Mr. Richard Hirschfield is the semen donor," criminalist Steve Myers told a Sacramento Superior Court jury that began its fifth week of work today in the murder trial for Hirschfield.

    The 63-year-old defendant is accused in the Dec. 20, 1980, bludgeon and slashing deaths of John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, both of whom were 18 when they were abducted in Davis two days before their bodies were discovered more than 30 miles away off of Folsom Boulevard, near Lake Natoma.

    Authorities found the semen stain on a blanket in a van Riggins had been driving the night he and Gonsalves disappeared.

    Myers received the blood and saliva samples on Hirschfield from Sacramento sheriff's detectives in November 2002. He completed his report in January of 2003. Hirschfield, already in custody for a sex crime in Washington state, was charged the next year by Sacramento prosecutors with the murders of the two students and the rape of Gonsalves.

    Hirschfield faces the death penalty if he is convicted.

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archiv...#storylink=cpy
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  5. #5
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    Testimony in Davis 'sweethearts' case reflects passage of time since double slayings



    Today's proceedings in the Davis "sweethearts" trial were a reminder of just how long this case has been winding its way through Sacramento's criminal justice system.

    First, jurors heard from Dr. Pierce Rooney - or at least a videotaped version of him. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on John Riggins - killed with his girlfriend Sabrina Gonsalves just before Christmas in 1980 - has died since he testified in the 2007 preliminary hearing to decide whether Richard Hirschfield would stand trial for the murders.

    A judge ruled that he should stand trial, and the video of that 2007 testimony was played Friday for jurors who are now tasked with deciding whether Hirschfield is responsible for the brutal slayings more than three decades ago.

    After Rooney, jurors heard from retired criminologist Ken Mack, who was director of the county's crime lab at the time of the killings.

    Mack, who retired in the late 1990s, is elderly now and had to be pulled from an in-patient rehabilitation center to testify in court. And although he - like Rooney at the time of his 2007 testimony - could not recall all details of his involvement in the investigation, Mack was confident in much of his testimony, despite rigorous questioning by defense attorney Linda Parisi, who sought to attack the crime lab and its handling of key evidence in the case.

    Riggins and Gonsalves were both 18 and students at University of California, Davis when they disappeared. Their bodies were found in a ditch off Folsom Boulevard in Sacramento, their throats cut and bodies bludgeoned.

    Hirschfield, 63, also is accused of raping Gonsalves. He faces a possible death penalty if he is convicted.

    Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet was expected to rest her case today. However, she is expected to call at least one more witness Monday.

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archiv...#storylink=cpy
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  6. #6
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    Informant sticks to decades-old murder story; DA blasts him

    A police informant who was central to a now-discredited theory of murder in the killings of two UC Davis students 32 years ago reaffirmed today that one of four defendants charged but later released in the case admitted to him that he and another of the original suspects were responsible for the slayings.

    Raymond Gonzales, a long-time operative for assorted Sacramento area law enforcement agencies, said that Richard Thompson told him that he and David Hunt committed the Dec. 20, 1980 murders of John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.

    DNA extracted from a semen-stained blanket in Riggins van, however, excluded Hunt, Thompson and two others originally-charged defendants, and Yolo County prosecutors were forced to drop charges on them. The Sacramento DA's office, meanwhile, charged Richard Joseph Hirschfield with the murders, based on the DNA evidence, and it was in his trial that Gonzales testified today as a defense witness. Hirschfield faces the death penalty if he is convicted.

    Gonzales, now in his mid-to-late 60s, said that Thompson told him in a Los Angeles hotel room that he and Hunt abducted Riggins and Gonsalves from a Lucky's market in Davis and that the two of them killed the 18-year-old college freshmen. Defense attorneys were precluded from asking about why they think the so-called "Hunt Group" killed the students -- to make it look like a copy-cat killing because Hunt's half-brother, Gerald Gallego, had recently been arrested for the similar slayings of two Sacramento State students. Gallego was later convicted and died on Nevada's death row.

    "He was pretty much open," Gonzales said of Thompson's demeanor in their July 1987 conversation in the Hotel Cecil, near Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. "He was pretty relaxed. We drank a couple beers at the bar. He was pretty mellow when he talked about the murders."

    Gonzales told defense attorney Linda Parisi, "I'm not lying about nothing. You could give me a polygraph test."

    On cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet blasted Gonzales' account, particularly the timing of when he said Thompson made the admissions and how his testimony today conflicted with his statements under oath during the Yolo County preliminary hearing in the early 1990s.

    Gonzales also testified that his sister had been married to Hunt and that Hunt "did dirt" to her. He said their problematic relationship played a role in motivating him to tell Sacramento sheriff's detectives in the early days of the investigation that Hunt -- a long-time criminal -- may have had something to do with the Gonsalves and Riggins killings.

    "It had something to do with it, yes," Gonzales testified.

    He also said he was interested in obtaining the $30,000 in reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed Riggins and Gonsalves.

    Gonzales' testimony is expected to run through the afternoon.

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archiv...#storylink=cpy
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  7. #7
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    Testimony concludes in Hirschfield trial

    Testimony concluded today in the Richard Joseph Hirschfield murder trial, with the case scheduled to go to a Sacramento Superior Court jury late next week.

    Attorneys for the 63-year-old defendant accused in the Dec. 20, 1980, killlings of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves finished their case with readings from transcripts and playing taped recordings. The transcripts and recordings contained statements from witnesses that the Hirschfield lawyers say cast suspicion on a group of four defendants who have since been exonerated.

    The prosecution called a retired sheriff's detective, Bob Bell, as a rebuttal witness. He testified that his agency, based on its concern over the reliability of informant Ray Gonzales, lost interest in pursuing the so-called "Hunt Group" of defendants. Yolo County authorities picked up the theory that the Hunt Group killed Riggins and Gonsalves and charged the four suspects. But they were forced to dismiss the case when the DNA on a semen-stained blanket found in Riggins van excluded all of them and ultimately pointed toward HIrschfield.

    After both sides rested their cases, Judge MIchael W. Sweet scheduled closing arguments in the case for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

    Hirschfield is accused of murder and sexual assault in the case. He faces the death penalty if jurors convict him and sustain special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, and murder during the course of a kidnap, rape and forced oral copulation.

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/mt/mt-search...#storylink=cpy
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  8. #8
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    Hirschfield called an evil sexual predator

    A Sacramento County prosecutor told a jury Wednesday that Richard Hirschfield is a sexual predator responsible for the 1980 murders of college sweethearts John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.
    “Violent, graphic, unimaginable murder.” said Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet.
    The 63-year-old convicted rapist listened without reaction during Bladet’s three-hour closing argument.
    He could face the death penalty if convicted.
    The case is unusual becauseat the heart of the prosecution's case is DNA evidence recovered from a blanket found at the murder scene 32-years ago.
    John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves were UC Davis students and college sweethearts whowere both 18.
    Kidnapped from Davis in December 1980, their bodies were discovered two days later in a ravine near Lake Natoma in Sacramento County. Experts testified that the victims had been stabbed and brutalized.
    Detectives found the Riggin's family van nearby. Inside the vehicle was a new blanket.
    In 2002, scientists examining that blanket found DNA matching Hirschfield mixed with DNA from Gonsalves.
    When detectives later questioned Joseph Hirschfield, the defendant’s brother in Oregon,he killed himself the next day, Bladet said. The jury was told he left a suicide note in which he admitted assisting his brother in the 1980s murders.
    Defense attorney Linda Parisi said her closing arguments will stress the unreliability of physical evidence gathered three decades ago. She will also tell the jury that other suspects, identified by detectives years ago, were the actual killers.
    In a surprise, Parisi moved for a mistrial after complaining that Bladet misled jurors by implying they must act as protectors of the community by ensuring justice for the victims.
    Judge Michael Sweet reviewed the prosecutor's comments and denied the motion.
    Closing arguments are expected to conclude on Thursday.

    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/496317.../#.UJHUJcUe7js

  9. #9
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    Attorneys finish arguments in Hirschfield trial

    The lawyers finished their arguments in the Richard Joseph Hirschfield murder trial today, and the Sacramento Superior Court jury that heard the case will begin its deliberations Monday.

    Judge Michael W. Sweet sent the jury out at 3:50 p.m., but the attorneys needed to work out one final stipulation before the seven-man, five-woman panel could begin its deliberations.

    Hirschfield, 63, is charged with the Dec. 20, 1980, slashing and bludgeon killings of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, both 18. HIrschfield faces the death penalty if he is convicted.

    Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/crime/archiv...#storylink=cpy
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  10. #10
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    Man convicted in 1980 deaths of UC Davis students

    A California man has been convicted of the slashing deaths of two UC Davis freshmen in 1980.

    Sacramento jurors deliberated less than a day before finding 63-year-old Richard Joseph Hirschfield guilty on Monday of the first-degree murders of Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins, both 18.

    The Davis Enterprise ( http://bit.ly/VQkOFi) says the jury found it true that Hirschfield committed the killings in the commission of a kidnapping and oral copulation, and that he performed multiple murders.

    Those special circumstances now send the trial into a penalty phase to decide if Hirschfield should be put to death or life in prison without parole.

    Hirschfield was in a Washington state prison for child rape eight years ago when the cold case investigators matched his DNA with a semen sample found inside Riggins' van.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_2...davis-students
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