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Jury returns guilty verdict in 1980 murder of South Lake Tahoe teenager

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014 - 4:01 pm

An El Dorado County jury has rendered a guilty verdict in the 1980 slaying of a 16-year-old gas station attendant in South Lake Tahoe.

The jury of four men and eight women deliberated less than two days before finding Andrew Sanford, 52, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Swanson, according to an El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office news release.

The case had been dormant for nearly 30 years when Sanford was arrested for domestic violence in Sacramento County. A sample of his DNA was taken at booking and entered in the Combined DNA Index System. In January 2011, the system matched Sanford’s DNA to the DNA on duct tape that was used to suffocate Swanson. Sanford was subsequently arrested by South Lake Tahoe police on March 29, 2012 and charged with Swanson’s murder.

Richard Swanson had been working only three weeks at his first job as a gas station attendant during the graveyard shift at the South Y Gas Station in South Lake Tahoe. Sanford, who was 19 at the time, had a history of small-time crimes such as auto theft, and breaking and entering. He hung around the gas station in the evening hours with a friend, Donald Fickland, who worked there. Authorities said Sanford knew the employees’ routine, the layout of the gas station and where the money was deposited.

On Aug. 14, 1980, Swanson arrived at the gas station to begin his graveyard shift. Six hours later, he was found dead in the station’s back storage room. Authorities sad he had been beaten, wrapped in duct tape and left to suffocate. It was later determined that $761.02 in cash was missing from the station’s register.

Sanford moved from South Lake Tahoe that same day.

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department investigated the case, conducted interviews and collected the duct tape used on Swanson that three decades later provided the crucial DNA evidence linking Sanford to the crime, authorities said.

The sentencing phase of the case is set for June 16.

Call The Bee’s Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

Read more articles by Cathy Locke

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