Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Defense rests in Hirschfield trial’s penalty phase

Richard Hirschfield listens to testimony during his trial in Sacramento Superior Court. CBS 48 Hours/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | December 04, 2012 | Leave Comment

SACRAMENTO — The defense rested Monday in the penalty phase of the UC Davis “sweethearts” case, clearing the way for closing arguments in the double-murder trial that began three months ago today.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet scheduled the summations for Wednesday, after which jurors will decide whether Richard Joseph Hirschfield should receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Dec. 20, 1980, kidnap-murders of UCD students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.

Defense attorneys called as the case’s final witness Leslie Lebowitz, a Newton, Mass.-based clinical psychologist who testified that Hirschfield’s early childhood amounted to an “atmosphere of terror” that may have influenced his later development.

Lebowitz said she based her opinion on reports of interviews with three of Hirschfield’s relatives — his mother, youngest brother and now-deceased grandmother — who described an abusive environment created by Hirschfield’s biological father.

Casper Hirschfield was married to Richard Hirschfield’s grandmother when he began sexually assaulting his 13-year-old stepdaughter, Lebowitz said. She became pregnant the following year and had Richard — the first of her six children by Casper, whom she eventually married — at age 15.

“By her description, he was a very frightening man, a heavy drinker and physically quite abusive,” Lebowitz said under questioning by lead defense attorney Linda Parisi, who is seeking to spare her client from execution.

Hirschfield’s mother eventually left the marriage and moved her children to Colusa, where the family lived in poverty — and also in fear of Casper’s return, according to the reports.

“Her youngest son described her as sleeping during the day so she could stay awake all night and watch for him,” Lebowitz said. As a result, Hirschfield’s mother was “terrified and emotionally shut down” when it came to raising her children.

Whether Hirschfield felt traumatized by those experiences remains unclear, however, as Lebowitz did not interview the defendant or receive any information about his perceptions of his childhood, the psychologist said under cross-examination by prosecutor Dawn Bladet. She said she was asked to step in as a witness just last week after another defense expert became unavailable to testify.

“I asked if it was possible to interview other family members, but it was not possible and there was not time,” Lebowitz said. The purpose of her testimony, she said, was to “educate the jury about trauma,” but she noted she was not suggesting that trauma played a role in the 1980 murders.

“I’m not speaking to the crime in any way,” she said.

Hirschfield, 63, was convicted Nov. 5 of murdering Riggins and Gonsalves, who were both 18 when they were abducted from Davis after ushering a performance of the “Davis Children’s Nutcracker.”

Their bodies were found two days later in a wooded ravine off Folsom Boulevard and Aerojet Road in Rancho Cordova. The couple’s heads had been wrapped in duct tape, their throats brutally slashed. Gonsalves had been sexually assaulted.

DNA extracted from a semen-stained blanket found in Riggins’ van, which had been used in the kidnapping, led to Hirschfield’s arrest nearly 24 years after the murders.

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

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, 11 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

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, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
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

.

Forum

Take ownership of your health

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
Keep your baby safe

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
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

 
Road diet? No, city diet!

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A12, 5 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, 3 Comments

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A12

 
Core values on campus

By Our View | From Page: A12, 3 Comments

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

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

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

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13, 3 Comments

.

Sports

Devils burn up the track

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
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

 
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

Yolo Federal Credit Union gets WISH funds

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
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

 
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