Thursday, March 5, 2015

Judge to rule in May on ‘Hunt group’ murder theory

From page A1 | April 15, 2012 |

Richard Hirschfield. Courtesy photo

SACRAMENTO — Attorneys in the UC Davis “sweetheart murders” case wrapped up Friday their debate over whether a third party — and not defendant Richard Hirschfield — committed the killings more than three decades ago.

Now, they’re waiting for Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet to rule May 9 how much of that evidence defense lawyers can introduce at Hirschfield’s forthcoming trial.

Hirschfield is linked by an alleged DNA match to the Dec. 20, 1980, kidnap-murders of UCD students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, whose bodies were found two days later in a ravine along Highway 50 in Sacramento County.

Sweet already has said from the bench that he’s inclined to permit the testimony of Ray Gonzales, an ex-con and police informant who in the late 1980s helped Davis police build a case against four other people on the theory that the killings were a copycat crime.

The theory: David Hunt, his wife Suellen Hunt and friends Richard Thompson and Doug Lainer committed the murders to help Hunt’s half-brother Gerald Gallego, who had recently been arrested for abducting and killing another college couple. Gonzales said Hunt believed a similar crime would make authorities believe the real killer was still at large.

Gallego remained behind bars, however, and Yolo County prosecutors released the foursome on the eve of their 1993 trial after a DNA test on a semen-stained blanket found in Riggins’ van failed to match David Hunt, Thompson, Lainer or Riggins.

But Hirschfield’s lawyers have embraced the “Hunt group” theory and hope to present it at trial, despite the prosecutor’s argument that it’s likely to confuse the jury and cause unnecessary delay.

None of it “provides any credible evidence that this crime was committed by anyone other than Richard Hirschfield,” Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet said at a court hearing in late March.

Through live witnesses and transcripts of previous testimony, the defense is seeking to admit:

* Thompson’s alleged admission to Gonzales in 1987 of his and David Hunt’s involvement in the murders of Riggins and Gonsalves, both 18-year-old freshmen at UCD. Purportedly captured on tape, the conversation was deemed unusable due to background noise, and Davis police relied upon Gonzales’ version of Thompson’s statements.

* Evidence of David and Suellen Hunt’s wedding in Carson City, Nev., on Dec. 20, 1980, which lead defense attorney Linda Parisi alleges was carried out to serve as an alibi for the students’ murders, and to protect Suellen Hunt from having to testify against her husband.

* Statements from Bill Lansing, a friend of the Hunt group, who recalled being dropped off at a casino following the wedding while the others took care of what they called “family business.”

* Recollections by Valerie Thompson, the former wife of the now-deceased Richard Thompson, of a “blood-brother ritual” between Thompson and Hunt the night before the killings. Parisi said the incident is proof the two men were “like family” as they sought to clear Gerald Gallego’s name.

* Alleged sightings of Lainer driving Riggins’ van in the Sacramento area around the time of the 1980 crimes.

Sweet said last week he would make his ruling after a review of the attorneys’ motions and relevant case law — including People v. Hall, a 1986 California Supreme Court ruling that says relevant evidence of third-party culpability is admissible when it raises a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt.

Hirschfield, 63, has pleaded not guilty to the murders, for which he was arrested and charged in 2004. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Mother pleads not guilty to lesser charges in baby’s death

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    ‘The Liar’ will have audiences in stitches

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Hibbert Lumber honored as an Owl Wise Leader

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Bob Dunning: Is there a fair way out of this?

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Boots help dogs deal with cold

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    High court hears Obamacare arguments

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Fiesta dinner, auction benefit Chávez School

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    World Language Fair brings nations to Davis

    By Krystal Lau | From Page: A3

    Get crackin’ for Yolo Crisis Nursery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Taizé service set Friday at DCC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Climate Lobby will meet March 11

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Be featured in Woodland’s water-wise landscape tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    UFC speaker series gives ‘A Winemaker’s Journey’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Speaker will illuminate universe’s dark side

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Divorce options covered in Saturday workshop

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Author events coming up at The Avid Reader

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Community forum with police will address hate in Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5



    No real reason to stay

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Vernal pools are in danger

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Migratory waterfowl threatened

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Dog in shopping cart concerning

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Drought stresses California’s trees

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Initiative carnival coming next year

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A6

    Hunting has many benefits

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    This river needs our help

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6



    DHS boys track team has high aspirations

    By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Blue Devil boys mash Marauders

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils’ big inning is the difference in baseball opener

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS golfers dominate Elk Grove

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Davis softball offense explodes for first win

    By Chris Saur | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Youth roundup: U15 Knights rout El Dorado Hills

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Youth soccer: Barker lights it up for Blue Thunder

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    San Antonio enjoys home cooking to rout Sacramento

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Sports briefs: DHS swimmers speed past Herd

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8



    DHS sophomore honored for volunteerism

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5



    Hear EZ Street Saturday at winery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    UC Davis bands perform on March 11

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

    Wealth of Nations plays Saturday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ to be screened Sunday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Resler releases memoir, ‘The Last Protégée’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Athens Guitar Duo to perform at Davis Arts Center

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8







    Comics: Thursday, March 5, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B6