Sacto 9-1-1
January 23, 2012
Judge allows parts of suicide note in UC Davis "sweethearts" murder case

A judge today ruled that portions of a suicide note written by Richard Hirschfield's dead brother can be used against the defendant who is accused in the 1980 sex murders of UC Davis sweethearts Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins.

"I was there," the defendant's brother, Joseph Hirschfield, wrote in a note he authored before killing himself in 2002, the day after Sacramento sheriff's homicide detectives questioned him the Gonsalves and Riggins case.

Sacramento prosecutors hope Joseph Hirschfield's admission, combined with other evidence that he lived close by where the victims bodies were found in the Lake Natoma area, will help convince jurors his brother also was at the scene of the killings. The D.A.'s office claims that DNA from a semen stain retrieved from a blanket in Riggins' van matches Richard Hirschfield.

Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet also sought to introduce portions of the suicide note where Joseph Hirschfield claimed his brother killed the teen-aged college couple. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet excluded that portion of the note from trial.

Hirschfield's lawyers sought to exclude the entirety of the note on grounds it is inadmissable hearsay. The judge ruled that the selected portions of the note qualified to be shown to the jury as exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Defense attorney LInda Parisi said she and her co-counsel, Assistant Public Defender Ken Schaller, may appeal Sweet's ruling. It is not expected that such an appeal would further delay the trial now scheduled for March 19.

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