Tuesday, April 21, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Psychiatrist: Hirschfield’s brain was damaged

Convicted killer Richard Hirschfield listens to testimony during his trial. CBS 48 Hours/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | November 30, 2012 |

SACRAMENTO — Scans of convicted killer Richard Hirschfield’s brain show extensive damage that rendered him socially and emotionally dysfunctional, possibly since birth, a forensic psychiatrist testified Thursday in Sacramento Superior Court.

Dr. Douglas Tucker, an associate professor at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine, said the images taken of Hirschfield’s brain over the past few weeks indicate structural and functional deficiencies in the amygdala, a cluster of neurons deep within the brain linked to emotional processing and impulse control.

“His brain is not normal,” said Tucker, called by Hirschfield’s defense attorneys to present a report written by Ruben Gur, a University of Pennsylvania neuropsychologist who was unavailable to testify himself.

“This is a clear-cut structural abnormality that is described by Dr. Gur as brain damage,” Tucker said. And while Hirschfield’s brain overall is normal in size, in the amygdala “there are very clearly pathological levels of tissue loss.”

The damage put Hirschfield at risk of developing antisocial behavior and diminished his ability to learn from punishment, Tucker added.

Tucker’s testimony came on the second day of the penalty-phase proceedings for Hirschfield, 63, who was convicted earlier this month of kidnapping and killing UC Davis sweethearts John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves on Dec. 20, 1980. Jurors now must decide whether Hirschfield should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorneys, hoping to spare their client from execution, have said Hirschfield endured an abusive and “chaotic” childhood that mitigates his later criminal conduct.

Tucker told defense attorney Linda Parisi that Hirschfield’s brain-scan results are consistent with a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning the damage dates back to his birth or early childhood and worsened as he aged. Brain trauma also may have played a role, Gur concluded in his report.

Under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet, Tucker acknowledged he had only received a copy of Gur’s report the night before his testimony, though he said he previously discussed the case with Gur over the phone.

He also said the report relied solely upon the scans, and that neither he nor Gur interviewed Hirschfield, researched his background or reviewed any of his medical records.

A 1986 motorcycle accident and a severe beating delivered to him at the Sacramento County Jail in 2004 could have contributed to Hirschfield’s brain damage, Tucker said, though he noted the scans “most likely are representative of what his brain was like throughout his life.”

“Do I have 100 percent certainty about that? No,” he added. And when told Hirschfield may have stalked Riggins and Gonsalves for days before the murders, Tucker said, “I wouldn’t call that an impulsive crime.”

The defense later elicited testimony Thursday from three of Hirschfield’s childhood friends, all of whom attended grammar and high school with him in the rural town of Colusa.

There, Hirschfield strived to be part of the “in” crowd, but his family’s low socioeconomic status kept him from succeeding, the witnesses said.

“He had a very serious desire to be well-liked, to be popular,” said Ernest Hubbard Jr., a fellow Colusa High School student from the 1960s. Hirschfield lacked the “assets” for popularity, and “it troubled him greatly, emotional and otherwise.”

Teasing was common among kids who were “on the outs,” Hubbard said, but added that he never saw Hirschfield taunted himself.

Home life was no picnic either, said the onetime friends, who remembered visiting Hirschfield at a meager house with six children and no father figure in sight.

“Instead of hanging out with friends, he would go home, and the sense I got was he was responsible for his brothers and sisters,” said John Moran, another former schoolmate.

“He always had a job of some kind. He just had to work all the time,” added Steve Codorniz, whose family lived several blocks away from the Hirschfields. “I just never felt like it was a happy time for him.”

But Hirschfield also was highly intelligent, said Codorniz, who told an investigator that he “figured he would run NASA or end up in prison.”

Hirschfield’s future also came up in a long-ago discussion with Hubbard, who remembered once asking his classmate, then about 15 or 16 years old, what he planned to do with his life.

“He made a very profound statement,” Hubbard recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t know, but what I do know is that when I die, I want people to remember me.’ ”

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

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

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

  • .

    News

    Aggie Pride on parade at UC Davis Picnic Day

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    City wants a study of sewer rates

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    Hard-of-hearing student needs community’s help

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

     
    KDVS fund drive includes on-air pledging, plus parties and food

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
    Art helped sell California’s agriculture

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

     
    Sign up now for Celebrate Davis!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4Comments are off for this post

    Students, families can get after-hours Internet access

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Lawyers seek resolution to Davis molest case

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4

    Garamendi hosts conference for women

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    ‘Invaluable public servant’ retires after 20 years

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Your brain’s aging and a new report urges ways to stay sharp

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Injury-proof yourself for effective exercise

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Understanding risks can help women prevent leading health threats

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Eyewitness speaks about Israel’s election

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Free gardening advice offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Grad Night tickets on sale online

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Schenker speaks about ‘Magical Mexico’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Yolo County DA honors crime victims at annual tribute

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Holman offers Publishing 101 seminar

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Radio-controlled airplanes will race April 25-26

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Woodland bike rides set every Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Get some advice at Connections Café

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Join the 10,000-vegetable challenge!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9Comments are off for this post

    NAMI group offers family support

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Birding tour will benefit Putah Creek Council

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Watershed Wonders activities return to Putah Creek

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Yolo County Neighborhood Court seeks new volunteers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    UCD looks at building a better brain as we age

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘Vault’ highlights ‘Kathak’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Two drought-preparedness water bills pass out of Senate committees

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Picnic Day favorites: dogs, bikes science

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A13 | Gallery

    Strike up the band, and the bubbles!

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A14 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Ready for the parting glass

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
     
    John Cole cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B6

    Yolo Crisis Nursery still needs help

    By Our View | From Page: B6

     
    Drink up, kids, but make your choice a healthy one

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    Leash your dogs; it’s the law

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

     
    Speak out

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B7

    Let’s not turn our backs on the Earth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B7

     
    This Earth Day, make a pledge to cool your home

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B7

    .

    Sports

    Fast Aggie start negated by 14-0 USC lacrosse run

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Stagnant second-half offense sinks Devil girls

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Over the hump? DHS baseball team wins late

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lambdin, Marshall lead Aggies at Mt. SAC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Republic FC gets another win at Bonney

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B2

     
    UCD roundup: Aggies sweep a water polo double dip

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Busy Clancy, Hall spark Devil tracksters at Mt. SAC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Former DHS star Drexel returns to create havoc for Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

    Pro baseball roundup: Oakland blanks Kansas City

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

     
    Sports briefs: Blue Devils split a pair of tennis matches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B14 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    New phase opens at Brookfield Cottages

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

     
    Tucos closes; new Japanese, pizza, subs debut

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    WISH grant funds available to eligible homebuyers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

     
    Marrone Bio Innovations strengthens its sales team

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

    .

    Obituaries

    Alice Catherine Micheltorena

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Jody Zewe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Herman Timm

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Ruth Rodenbeck Stumpf

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Robert Leigh Cordrey

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, April 19, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8