Crime, Fire + Courts

Trial for 1980 murders delayed until January

By June 25, 2011

Richard Hirschfield. Enterprise file photo

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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