'Sweetheart Murders' verdict reached

9:52 PM, Nov 5, 2012   |    comments
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  • Richard Hirschfield
  • Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins were abducted and murdered in 1980.

SACRAMENTO, CA - Thirty-two years after a young UC Davis couple was found murdered, a Sacramento jury has convicted a man for the crimes.

Monday, Richard Joseph Hirschfield, 63, was found guilty of first degree murder in the slayings of John Riggins, 18, and Sabrina Gonsalves, 18. Their bodies were found in a van near Lake Natoma two days after they were kidnapped from Davis.

DNA analysis of a stain on a blanket in the van linked Hirschfield to the December 1980 killings, the prosecution claimed.

"The evidence as it was presented was overwhelming," said Richard Riggins, father of John Riggins. "I don't see how the jury could have had any other choice."

Jurors also found true special circumstances allegations of kidnapping, oral copulation, and multiple murders but not the charge of rape.

Hirschfield could face the death penalty when he is sentenced following the penalty phase of the trial which begins Nov. 26.

Defense Attorney Linda Parisi said she was disappointed by the verdict and that there's still a lot of work to do.

"There are still many issues left to address. We will continue the fight," said Parisi. "There's still a lot of evidence to go forward."

Meanwhile, relatives of the victims said they've waited more than three decades for justice.

"I'm grateful. I'm grateful for the DA and for everyone who never gave up on justice," said Andrea Rosenstein, sister of Sabrina Gonsalves.

Reporter Suzanne Phan contributed to ths story. sphan@news10.net

Twitter: @suzannephan


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