Sacto 9-1-1
September 26, 2012
Criminalist testifies about key discovery in 'sweethearts' case

A former criminalist with the state Department of Justice crime lab in Sacramento testified today about finding evidence that prosecutors say tied Richard Joseph Hirschfield to the killings of UC Davis "sweethearts" Sabrina Gonsalves and John Riggins.

Faye Springer, who later would be the director of the Sacramento County Crime Lab, said she recommended in 1992 to Yolo County investigators who had submitted possible trace evidence to her from the Dec. 20, 1980, killings that they might as well give her everything they had of possible evidentiary value.

Springer said she made her suggestion after looking at photographs of all the items Sacramento sheriff's detectives had retrieved from a van the two 18-year-old UC Davis students had been driving two nights before their bodies were found near Lake Natoma.

Among the items she saw in the picture was a red, white and blue "bundle up" blanket.

"I thought that might be interesting to look at, and I asked that it be brought in," Springer told a Sacramento Superior Court jury.

Investigators delivered the blanket to her on July 1, 1992, Springer said. She testified she "tape-lifted" the blanket for trace evidence when "I noticed some stains."'

A chemical screening of the stains determined they were semen, according to Springer.

"I was surprised," she testified. "I didn't think I was looking for semen."

Another surprise followed when DNA tests on the stain did not match any of four defendants Davis police had arrested and Yolo County prosecutors had charged with murder in the Riggins and Gonsalves killings.

Authorities were forced to drop charges on the four, but the DNA extracted from the stains came up with a match 10 years later on Richard Hirschfield, according to Sacramento prosecutors. Hirschfield, who is now 63, had been imprisoned at the time in Washington state.

The Sacramento DA's office is seeking the death penalty on Hirschfield on special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the course of a sexual attack.

Springer was scheduled to continue testifying this afternoon.

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