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El Dorado County jury convicts man in 1980s slayings of three teens

A man who previously served prison time for a murder in Washington state has been convicted by an El Dorado County jury of the 1980s slayings of three teenage girls, including 15-year-old Kathy Graves of South Lake Tahoe.

Joseph Michael Nissensohn was found guilty Thursday of three first-degree murders in the 1989 death of Graves, and the 1981 slayings of Tammy Jarschke, 13, and Tanya Jones, 14, in Monterey County, according to an El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office news release. The jury also found true additional special-circumstances allegations, including the 1989 Washington murder of Sally Jo Tsaggaris, 46.

The guilt phase of the trial began May 14 with jury selection. Nissensohn faces the death penalty, with the penalty phase of the trial to begin Nov. 12 in South Lake Tahoe, authorities said.

Nissensohn was convicted of the Washington murder in 1991 and was due to be released at the end of his sentence in 2008. At that time, in agreement with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office consolidated the three murder cases to be tried at the same time.

A criminal complaint filed by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office against Nissensohn in January 2008 stemmed from investigative work from the “cold case” teams of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s and the District Attorney’s offices.

In Tacoma, Nissensohn was convicted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tsaggaris and the second-degree assault on his estranged wife, Cheryl Rose, on May 2, 1989, according to a 1991 story in The Bee.

Rose disclosed the slaying to police in August 1990 when she was at a shelter in Florida, seeking protection from a new boyfriend. She told authorities that Nissensohn had killed Kathy Graves, who they had picked up in the South Lake Tahoe area in August 1989.

Graves’ remains were found near the Tallac Trailhead nearly a year after she disappeared from her South Lake Tahoe home.