The judge in the Davis "sweethearts" murder trial today put a limit on defense lawyers on how much evidence they can bring in about a group of suspects previously charged but later cleared in the killings of John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet ruled that the attorneys for defendant Richard Hirschfield can only introduce witness statements or physical evidence that directly or circumstantially implicates members of the so-called "Hunt Group." Yolo County prosecutors once charged ex-defendant David Hunt and three others with the Dec. 20, 1980, slayings of Riggins and Gonsalves.
Hirschfield's defense team wanted to introduce similarities between the Riggins and Gonsalves murders and slayings committed by Hunt's half-brother, the since-deceased serial sex-killer Gerald Gallego. They also wanted to explore an attack committed by Hunt in the state of Washington to see if it reflected elements of the the "sweethearts" case.
In addition, the defense lawyers wanted to bring in evidence of the Hunt Group's activities in the period surrounding the Riggins-Gonsalves killings.
Riggins and Gonsalvez, both 18, were abducted in Davis and their bodies were found two days later in a ravine near Lake Natoma, about 30 miles to the east.
Yolo prosecutors arrested Hunt and three other defendants about a decade after the killings and charged that they killed the college couple to throw investigators off the trail of Gallego, who was in custody at the time for a Sacramento area double homicide of a young couple.
Former Yolo County District Attorney David C. Henderson dismissed the case on the Hunt Group in 1993 after DNA material retrieved from the Riggins-Gonsalvez murder scene did not match any of those defendants.