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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Trial for 1980 murders delayed until January

By
June 25, 2011 | 32 Comments

Richard Hirschfield. Enterprise file photo

By Joel Davis

The trial for the man accused of the 1980 murders of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves won’t begin until next year at the earliest.

At a pretrial hearing Friday for Richard Joseph Hirschfield, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet expressed concern that the defense’s many motions and busy court personnel schedules in the wake of budget cuts continue to make Hirschfield’s trial “a low priority.”

He nevertheless granted a trial continuance for the case, which had been set for August.

Hirschfield’s attorneys lobbied for the jury trial to begin next April. But Sweet cited the case’s numerous delays and said it was in the best interest of all involved to start the trial in January.

Hirschfield, 62, faces the death penalty if he is convicted of the Dec. 20, 1980, slayings of the couple. He was wheeled into court Friday in a wheelchair, and took notes. His next scheduled appearance is Sept. 30.

Hirschfield has been a suspect in the case since he was matched in 2002 through DNA to a semen stain on a blanket found in Riggins’ van. He was arrested in 2004, and was bound over for trial following a preliminary hearing in 2007.

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Discussion | 32 comments

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  • laurieJuly 08, 2011 - 9:35 pm

    I am horrified that the trial has been delayed all this time.

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  • KimDecember 22, 2011 - 11:25 pm

    As am I, Laurie! It's disgusting that the judge once again, allowed ANOTHER continuance! It seems to me his lawyers, as well as himself, are hoping that they can postpone his trial until he dies and that way, he'll never be convicted! And to classify this as a 'low priority'??? Disgusting!! Shame on our justice system! I saw his lawyer on "48 Hours: Hard Evidence. She couldn't have made a bigger A** out of herself!! His DNA "planted"?? Or, that he could have come across the van these kids were in and that his semen just happened to somehow fall out on the blanket! How pathetically ridiculous!! Horrifying is the perfect description!

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  • NADIAMarch 08, 2012 - 12:04 am

    Does anyone have a fallow up on this case?

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  • KerenJuly 09, 2011 - 8:17 am

    Hirschfield took John Riggins' & Sabrina Gonsalves' lives when they had only lived 18 years. Why has Hirschfield been allowed to live for almost double that amount of time, let alone not even been brought to trial? As evidenced in Hirschfield's past criminal court appearances for molestation, he's become a master of delay tactics. No more delay tactics! Make the Justice System work!

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  • DimensionXJuly 13, 2011 - 8:30 am

    I am reading Justice Waits by Joel Davis, which is about the UC Davis Sweetheart Murders. It is a good book, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about this case.

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  • ShannonAugust 07, 2011 - 9:12 pm

    I am SO tired of these leeches sucking the life out of OUR society. The ONE WE CHOOSE to conform too. I'm tired of watching these BEEPS write the script for themselves and everyone around them, while we sit back and play by the book. We are the ones who have to pull the knife out of our neck while this BEEP writes his own ticket! I SAY 25 cents for a bullet and I will have you a list of eager marksmen/women as soon as it takes you to load the gun!

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  • jdAugust 08, 2011 - 4:29 pm

    I blame the court system and the bottom feeder lawyers...they all play a part in california going broke.The system is broken.

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  • NanceeSeptember 24, 2011 - 2:07 pm

    Isn't justice supposed to be swift? How do we tolerate a system that gives the benefit to this individual, while ignoring the victim's families suffering for so many years. This isn't justice.

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  • LeeAnneSeptember 24, 2011 - 2:09 pm

    GET on with this trial.. the families have waited a lifetime and they deserve answers...Too many options are available for the defense..We need an overhaul of our justice system now!!!!!!!!!

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  • Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins murder 12/20/1980 Davis, CA *Cold Case Arrest: Convicted sex offender Richard Joseph Hirschfield charged with their murders; faces death penalty* « Bonnie's Blog of CrimeSeptember 25, 2011 - 1:48 pm

    [...] The Sweetheart Murders Cold Cases Heat Up, To Suspect (about 1/2 way down) Justice Waits DNA links inmate to 1980 student slayings Davis Writer Helps Solve Local Murder Mystery Justice Waits: The UC Davis Sweetheart Murders Innocence lost ‘Sweetheart’ case hits the courts — and network TV A Very Cold Case ’48 Hours’ mostly leaves out cringe factor with ‘Sweetheart’ Preliminary Hearing Under Way In 1980 Double Homicide Richard Hirschfield preliminary hearing concluded Trial for 1980 murders delayed until January [...]

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  • Elaine McAuliffeSeptember 27, 2011 - 9:50 am

    Justice delayed is justice denied does not just apply to the defendant. The victims & their families also deserve justice in a timely fashion.

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  • Bill lockwoodOctober 15, 2011 - 8:03 am

    Did you see the 48 Hours show on this case? Hirschfield's Attorney is a ludicrous example of a tortured person who has been allowed to wallow in the stench she has created in her path. Someday she will be able to say, "well, I showed them....... they all died before a trial could take place." What a legacy. California could learn a lot from the Texas judicial system.

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  • RussellOctober 17, 2011 - 10:56 am

    There was a second murder of a UC Davis student couple right around the same time (maybe a month of two before). They were killed by a former boyfriend in their off-campus dorm. I was living a couple of blocks away and I remember the situation vividly. Very tragic time for Davis around then.

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  • Rich RifkinOctober 17, 2011 - 12:40 pm

    Russell, I think you are thinking of the murder of UC Davis students Robin Ehlman and John Manville at the Castilian dorm took place in March, 1980, 9 months before Riggins and Gonsalves were murdered. The killer in that case was Daniel Wehner, the former boyfriend of Robin Ehlman. Wehner shot Mannville first, in front of Ehlman's dorm mates. As it happens, I was close enough on that day in 1980 to have heard the gunshots. Also by coincidence, John Riggins was a friend of mine. The murder of two college students which took place one month before John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves were killed was in Sacramento. Sac State students Craig Miller and Mary Elizabeth Sowers were killed in Sacramento by a serial killer and serial rapist named Gerald Gallego, who also viciously raped Miss Sowers. The Yolo DA mistakenly thought that there was a connection between the Gallego case and the murder of Riggins and Gonsalves. That mistaken derailed the case for decades, until Joel Davis (author of this article) got the Sacramento DA to take a look at the DNA evidence, which pointed to Richard Joseph Hirschfield, a criminal who was then auditing classes at UC Davis and apparently targetting young co-eds like Sabrina Gonsalves.

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  • RussellOctober 19, 2011 - 7:52 am

    Thanks for the reply. I had a girlfriend who lived in those dorms and I was walking her back from my apartment after the shootings. The coroner ambulance was there, the area cordoned off, etc. My old RA in the on-campus dorms happened to be an RA at Castilian at the time, and we ran into him that night. He was pretty shook up as one would expect.

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  • Splitting HairsNovember 19, 2011 - 11:03 am

    This low life murderer was arrested way back when? ]2002-03, and he still hasn't being tried? Glad to see the "justice system" still has its priorities in place LOL. And now the trial is being delayed even further because of budget cuts and being a low priority. Funny how budget cuts never seem to prevent these slime balls from getting their regular parole hearings and umpteen appeals. If money is so damm tight, then in cases with iron clad proof of guilt, such as verifiable DNA evidence, give these losers a fast (but fair) trial followed by a 25 cent bullet. "Did you see the 48 Hours show on this case? Hirschfield’s Attorney is a ludicrous example of a tortured person who has been allowed to wallow in the stench she has created in her path." Yes I did. Defence lawyers such as her are just doing their job and are vital clogs in the "justice system" blah blah blah, but from a real world or human perspective, what a mealy mouthed peace of delusional slime this women portrayed herself Whjen the 48 hours reporter stated that the DNA found on the blanket was 1:240 TRILLION, she replies "we don't even know what that means" Huh? Well Ms Lawyer, a trillion is a wealy wealy warge number, which means the odds of the spunk on the murder scene blanket NOT being your client, is as likely as you refinding your long lost integrity as a human being.

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  • A. NaturnFebruary 06, 2012 - 10:14 am

    When she makes that "We don't even know what that means." comment I laugh out loud. Honestly, don't you need the ability to comprehend abstract concepts in order to function in your job? Are you actually sitting there telling us you're THAT stupid? Not that I find that hard to believe. LoL!!

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  • Splitting HairsNovember 19, 2011 - 11:12 am

    "Isn’t justice supposed to be swift? How do we tolerate a system that gives the benefit to this individual, while ignoring the victim’s families suffering for so many years. This isn’t justice." Western countries no longer have "justice systems", they have adversarial legal systems setup to create winners and losers

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  • StefanieDecember 02, 2011 - 7:53 am

    This is an out rage and discussing that this trail has been delayed. He has committed several crimes and ruined the lives of many children, adults and taken lives. There is no question he is guilty and should get the death penalty.

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  • TomDecember 16, 2011 - 11:08 pm

    I knew Sabrina Gonsalves’ as a young Army bratt in Germany. The world lost a beautiful person when the this animal killed her. He should tried, convicted and taken out into a city dump and shot in that back of the head and dumped on the garbage.

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  • La fonyaDecember 22, 2011 - 11:20 pm

    I just watched the 48 hours show and my heart goes out to the families. It's sadly amazing that this man has gotten to live pretty much all his life out as a free man. I say turn him loose to the prisoners in jail, they will give him his own kind of justice. I hope the justice system hurry up and convict that bum, if he's guilty, he doesn't deserve another day of freedom.

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  • A. NaturnFebruary 06, 2012 - 10:10 am

    There's no justice here. The victims are dead, the families suffer and the monster gets to live out his days with free room, board and health care until he dies unconvicted. All I can think of is the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" Too bad someone wouldn't come along and give this miserable fiend a fitting end that lasts and lasts and lasts.

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  • TheRock30February 18, 2012 - 8:45 pm

    Couldn't have said it better, the guy is 60+ years old. He's going to die before he gets put to death. Death is too good for him either way. The only thing that would bring me any satisfaction is knowing that he was getting beaten and tortured every day for the rest of his miserable life. The justice system? Ha! What a joke. It wouldn't even surprise me if he got released from prison for some technicality or something, it honestly wouldn't.

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  • Bernie PelowFebruary 07, 2012 - 10:20 pm

    I'm with all of you! All the money being spent on these delays is horse****! What Hirschfield is doing is trying to die of old age before he gets convicted and has to lay on the table and let people watch him die for the heinous way he murdered those poor kids! And I'll buy the bullet to put in the gun! Just like they did to Chicatillo in Russia, kneel him down and a .44 caliber right into the back of his head!

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  • ChristinaFebruary 16, 2012 - 2:30 pm

    Has there been any updates on the case???

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  • Charlie CracraftMarch 19, 2012 - 3:09 pm

    I dont like to Hate BUT, how can I not Hate when I see people like Richard Hirschfield, and his attorney is right there with him. I hope that they both Rot in Hell together.

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  • GwizMarch 19, 2012 - 7:03 pm

    She is so smart, let's send him home to stay with his lawyer until the trial is over. Wanna bet she'd drop all the obnoxious delays?

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  • JSApril 08, 2012 - 10:28 am

    Its now 2012 April- has this degenerate gone on trail as yet? It upsets me to read that the law has labelled this case as "low priority". An unsolved case for over 25 yrs and the suspect in custody with all the evidence pointing in his direction- how does this end up getting labelled low priority? Innocent lives lost and no justice served- this whole system is flawed. The fact that this case has been prolonged for so long makes it a top priority case.

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  • TraceyMay 25, 2012 - 11:24 pm

    Oh my God....this disgusting creep and his pathetic attorney need to be locked up together.They both make me sick..albeit him more so.Just turn him out to the general population in jail to take care of him.Someone needs to take care of him! Complete evil.....just pure evil.

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  • MickeyJune 19, 2012 - 10:10 pm

    Who do you think is paying the attorney fees for this creep and all creeps like him. We are, Our tax money allocated to the DA office pays for the attorneys and thats like a cash cow to them. The DA's office needs to be pressured on spending the money this way

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  • NinaAugust 18, 2012 - 12:19 pm

    This being is represented by those who wish fame because of this trial their using dirty tatics and the system to attempt to save a foul thing who took the lives of at least two young people perhaps more no one knows about yet he needs to stop breathing just as he stopped others from breathing. He's a foul nasty thing not human so he doesn't deserve.to be treated as one. That's part of the problem with this Criminal Justice system it's set up for criminals.

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  • Dawn ShultzAugust 30, 2012 - 1:12 pm

    I just watched 48 Hours On ID regarding this monster. It has been 32 years since he killed John Riggins & Sabrina Gonsalves! And, it still has not gone to trial??? Where is the justice for the two lives that were lost? Why hasn't this man been taken out back, beaten, and subjected to the same treatment he inflicted??? The justice system is certainly not working in this case & it's an outcry!!! Meanwhile, the tax payers on paying for him to stay in prison... I do not understand!!!!!

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