Family members of John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves expressed confidence Friday that Richard Joseph Hirschfield will be convicted of murder by the jury that has now heard all the evidence and arguments in his murder trial and will begin deliberations Monday.
"I can't conceive of the jury coming back with any other but guilty verdicts," Riggins' father, Dr. Richard Riggins, said after Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet sent the jury out at the completion of the opposing attorneys' closing arguments.
Ginger Swigart, Sabrina Gonsalves' aunt, concurred.
"It's in the jury's hands now," Swigart said. "I'm so confident they're going to find Hirschfield guilty. I just feel it in every part of me."
Hirschfield, 63, is accused in the Dec. 20, 1980, abduction and slashing deaths of Riggins and Gonsalves, both of whom were 18 when they were kidnapped and killed after working on The Davis Children's Nutcracker.
Their bodies were found two days later, but Hirschfield wasn't charged until 2004, after a cold DNA hit matched his genetic profile to the fluids found on a semen-stained blanket in a van the victims had been driving on the night of their disappearance.
Although the judge sent out the jury late Friday afternoon, the attorneys who battled to the end of the two-month trial still needed to work out one final stipulation on the evidence. It will be presented to the jury Monday morning before the panel begins to work on a verdict.
"Now we wait," said Gonsalves' sister, Andrea Rosenstein.
Defense attorney Linda Parisi asked for a mistrial on several grounds Friday after Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet concluded her rebuttal argument.
Parisi said Bladet's final remarks ventured into areas of evidence that were never introduced at trial. Bladet denied anything about her rebuttal was improper, and Sweet denied Parisi's motion.
"The trial has been quite difficult," Parisi said in an interview outside the courtroom. "There have been a lot of events that have occurred in pretrial motions and in the trial itself that we think significantly impacted the case and significantly impacted our ability to present a full and fair defense."
"They have leaned over backward to protect his rights," Riggins said. "But the facts are so obvious, even to a lay person like myself, and they were so eloquently argued and presented by Dawn."
Riggins said of the nearly 32 years that have elapsed since the slayings of his son and Sabrina Gonsalves, "It's been long and it's been painful. It's been very hard to live it all over again."
The case went cold in the weeks after the discovery of the bodies in a ditch 30 miles from Davis, near Lake Natoma. Yolo County prosecutors arrested and charged four other suspects, but that case was dismissed when DNA evidence excluded them. It later matched up with Hirschfield, who was by then in prison on a child molestation case in Washington state.
Hirschfield's conviction in Washington, however, has since been overturned in the federal appellate courts on grounds that he was improperly denied a request to represent himself in trial.