Sacto 9-1-1
October 31, 2012
Prosecutor labels Hirschfield 'evil' and 'incomprehensible'

A prosecutor tore into Richard Joseph Hirschfield today for what she called his "incomprehensible" and "evil" attack on John Harold Riggins and Sabrina Marie Gonsalves, whose deaths 32 years ago brought into real life the worst fears society harbors about predators in its midst.

"I was given responsibility for this case many years ago," Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet told a Sacramento Superior Court jury as closing arguments began in Hirschfield's murder trial. "I've lived with it a long time now, and I've thought about this day a lot -- the day that I hand over to you, entrust to you, this case to ensure that justice is done for John and Sabrina, and what happened to them."

Eight weeks after the trial began, Bladet told the jury that what happened to the two 18-year-old UC Davis sweethearts "can't be predicted," and "can't be prevented," that nobody could have protected themselves from what Richard Hirschfield did on the night of Dec. 20, 1980. But she said it is now time for the seven men and five women on the jury "to have the courage to confront reality" and "affix responsibility to where it belongs."

Hirschfield, 63, is facing four special-circumstance allegations of murder during the course of kidnap, rape and oral copulation, along with multiple murders. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.

Bladet's closing argument is expected to take up the rest of the afternoon, with Hirschfield's defense team scheduled to begin its arguments as soon as she finishes hers. With the prosecutor's rebuttal to follow, it is likely that the case will not be delivered to the jury for deliberations until Friday.

Gonsalves and Riggins were "snatched out of nowhere" by HIrschfleld, Bladet said. They were "innocents," Bladet said, during "a time of innocence," the Christmas holiday season, while they were working as staffers on The Davis Children's Nutcracker at the Veteran's Memorial Theater. Their bodies were found two days later, "dumped like trash in a ditch" off Folsom Boulevard, Bladet said, near Lake Natoma, about 30 miles to the east.

The prosecutor said Hirschfield "desecrated" and "defiled" Gonsalves before killing the two, slashing their throats and bludgeoning him. But in the course of doing so, Hirschfield "left a part of himself behind" on a blanket in a van Riggins drove that night. Some 22 years later, a cold hit on the DNA in a semen stain on the blanket came back to Hirschfield, then in prison in Washington state for his conviction on child molestation.

"DNA does not lie," Bladet said. "DNA does not forget."

She ridiculed any suggestion that the DNA sample was contaminated, quoting the odds cited by a state Department of Justice criminalist of 240 trillion to one. Adding to the improbability, Bladet said, was the combination of Hirschfield's genetic material taken from the semen stains that was mixed in with Gonsalves' saliva.

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