Crime, Fire + Courts

In their own words: Family, friends reflect on sentencing

By From page A9 | January 27, 2013

Excerpts of victim impact statements from Friday’s sentencing hearing for Richard Hirschfield:

“I see Sabrina all around me, in all that is good, in her beautiful smile, her laugh, her devotion to others, but mostly her compassion.”

— Terese Atallah, Sabrina’s sister, in a letter read by her husband Carlos Atallah

“My family and I often think of their last hours. …In some way, we feel that if we can walk with them in our minds, they will not have had to face their deaths alone.”

— Andrea Gonsalves Rosenstein, Sabrina’s sister

“I miss the big-brother advice he never had the chance to give. I regret not having been given the chance to see the look on his face the first time he held his niece and nephew.”

— Carrie Riggins Mack, John’s sister, in a letter read by her cousin Beth Gabor

“It was our 22nd wedding anniversary on that Dec. 20, 1980. Since then we do not celebrate the day nor can we change it. We acknowledge our John on that day.”

— Kate Riggins, John’s mother

“I would be remiss not to mention the length of time that has passed before the trial actually started. The question I ask myself, was it necessary to continuously delay and delay and delay the proceedings, and to whose benefit was that for?”

— Ginger Swigart, Sabrina’s aunt

“When calling John’s parents on their anniversary or Christmas day or John’s birthday, we no longer knew what to say. …(O)ne whose child has suffered the most horrific death can never by wished a Merry Christmas without a false ring to it.”

— Judy Gabor, Riggins family cousin

“Throughout the 32 years since their murders I have been tortured by ‘what if’ questions — what if John and Sabrina had lived, married and raised a family? … The contributions they could have made to society were immense, but tragically they will never be known due to the crimes of Richard Hirschfield.”

— Robert Riggins, John’s brother

“We will never know the gifts that John and Sabrina would have given society, but we do know Hirschfield’s contributions: humiliation, pain and death. It is altogether fitting and proper that this evil man be sentenced to death for what he has done. I can only hope the state will expedite his execution.”

— Dick Riggins, John’s father

“If he is executed, I would like to be there. If I am dead, I hope a family member will attend. Sabrina deserves whatever justice we can provide in this life. I have faith that God will provide the rest.”

— George Gonsalves Jr., Sabrina’s father, in a letter read by his son Stephen Gonsalves

Lauren Keene

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