Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Traumatic Davis murder case makes prime time

sabrina and johnW

Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins were carefree 18-year-olds in the summer of 1980, when they met while working in summer recreation programs for the city of Davis. The couple were kidnapped and killed on Dec. 20, 1980, by Richard Hirschfield, who was convicted last year of their murders and sentenced to death. Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | September 24, 2013 | Leave Comment

Join in

What: Warm Remembrance Family Picnic, featuring the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West

When: 5-6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20

Where: Redwood Park on Anderson Road (biking and walking encouraged due to limited parking)

Needed: Volunteers to set up, clean up and supervise children’s activities; and service groups to sell food and drinks at the event.

Contact: Beth Gabor, warm.remembrance@gmail.com or 530-756-8119

A Davis double-murder case that shook the city to its core — then took the victims’ families on a long and painful road to justice — is the subject of CBS’ “48 Hours” season premiere on Saturday.

“The Sweetheart Murders” airs locally on Channel 13 at 9 p.m. and features interviews with family and friends of teenage victims John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, as well as investigators and onetime suspects in the decades-old case.

Viewers also will see footage of defendant Richard Joseph Hirschfield’s three-month trial last year in Sacramento Superior Court, which ended with Hirschfield being convicted of two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances and condemned to death.

Riggins and Gonsalves were 18-year-old freshmen at UC Davis when they were abducted from outside Gonsalves’ North Davis condominium on the foggy night of Dec. 20, 1980. The couple had just ushered a performance of the “Davis Children’s Nutcracker” and were on their way to a surprise birthday party for Gonsalves’ sister, Andrea.

They never made it.

A two-day search spanning both Yolo and Sacramento counties led to the discoveries of the slain couple’s bodies in a wooded ravine off Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova, more than 30 miles away from Davis.

But it would be another 22 years before Hirschfield was identified as a suspect in the murders, the result of a book about the case by former Davis Enterprise reporter Joel Davis, a fresh look at the evidence by investigators and modern DNA technology that detected Hirschfield’s genetic profile on a blanket found in Riggins’ van, which had been used to transport the couple to Sacramento County.

Hirschfield’s brother Joseph committed suicide after being questioned by detectives about the murders, leaving behind a note that said in part, “I have been living with this horror for 20 years. I was there. My DNA is there.”

Richard Hirschfield was formally charged with the murders in 2004, with another eight years passing by before the case went to trial.

Complicating the matter was an earlier prosecution of the murders by authorities in Yolo County, who charged four other suspects — known as the “Hunt group” — on the theory that leader David Hunt orchestrated copycat killings to aid his half-brother, serial killer Gerald Gallego, who at the time was incarcerated for a similar crime.

DNA from the blanket failed to match any of the Hunt group’s three male members, however, and the case fell apart on the eve of their 1993 trial. Two of the group’s members, David Hunt and Richard Thompson, have since died.

“48 Hours” featured the sweethearts case one other time, in January 2007, as Hirschfield’s preliminary hearing was underway and the details linking him to the murders were aired publicly for the first time.

Meanwhile, fundraising efforts continue toward the construction of a playground memorial at West Davis’ Redwood Park, where Riggins spent countless hours as a child and Gonsalves worked as a playground leader for the city’s parks department.

Riggins family cousin Beth Gabor says more than $17,000 has been raised for the Warm Remembrance Family Play Area, which will feature new play equipment, landscaping, improved lighting and memorial benches. The project’s name pays homage to the Warm Remembrance Festival, a family-oriented gathering held in Davis for years after the couple’s deaths.

To raise awareness of the project, organizers are planning a Warm Remembrance family picnic on Sunday, Oct. 20, at Redwood Park, with entertainment including children’s activities and music by the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West.

Fundraising efforts toward the park project will conclude on Dec. 31. To learn more, visit http://city-managers-office.cityofdavis.org/warm-remembrance-project.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

News

Hub of activity: DHS newspaper keeps evolving

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
A springtime ritual

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Tom Adams seeks Davis school board seat

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

 
 
Holy fire ceremony draws thousands in Jerusalem

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Tour renovated YCCC facility Thursday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Tour Davis Waldorf School on Wednesday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

The fifth annual Tour de Cluck is soon to be hatched

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Ortiz lawn signs available

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sign up soon for spring cooking classes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Robb Davis team to rally on Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Steadfast in their support

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Yolo Hospice offers free grief workshops

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Sign up for Camp Kesem caterpillar crawl

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Quilters gear up for annual show

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A4

League hosts a series of candidate forums

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
KDVS launches fund drive on Monday

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

Calling all Scrabble fans

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Hub webpage is seeing traffic increasing

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

Learn Chinese crafts at I-House

By Sebastian Onate | From Page: A16

 
Preschool open house set at Davis Waldorf

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Birch Lane celebrates its 50th anniversary

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

 
Hotel/conference center info meeting set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

Lescroart welcomes all to book-launch party

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16 | Gallery

 
DEVO set to serve up 14th annual Winkler Dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

.

Forum

Take ownership of your health

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Not thrilled with lack of symmetry

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

Reliving the agony and ecstasy of spring

By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

 
Keep your baby safe

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Road diet? No, city diet!

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 4 Comments

We’re reveling in our equality

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
Vote no; it’s fiscally responsible

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

 
Core values on campus

By Our View | From Page: A12

 
Bill is an affront to UC Davis ag biotech and local farmers

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Don’t want to sit in Fix 50 traffic? Consider alternatives

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
.

Sports

UCD softball shut out by Santa Barbara

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggie men shoot 9-under, lead own tourney

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Stars shine in Woody Wilson Classic

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Devils burn up the track

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
UCD roundup: Aggie baseball swept away by Highlanders

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

A’s score 3 in ninth, rally past Astros 4-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

PG&E pays taxes, fees to county, cities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

 
Will Davis get an Old Soul?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A9

Pediatricians, nurse practitioner hired at Woodland Healthcare

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Asian stocks mostly higher after mixed U.S. earnings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Yolo Federal Credit Union gets WISH funds

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Davis Roots will showcase its graduating startups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14

University Honda wins another President’s Award

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

 
Dutch Bros. raises $19,000 for girl with leukemia

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A14 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, April 20, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8