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

Published: Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014 - 9:43 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 until Sanford was arrested on suspicion of 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. South Lake Tahoe police arrested Sanford on March 29, 2012, and prosecutors charged him with Swanson’s murder.

Swanson had been working only three weeks at his first job on the graveyard shift at 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 evenings with a friend 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 shift. Six hours later, he was found dead in the station’s storage room.

Authorities sad Swanson 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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