Testimony concluded today in the Richard Joseph Hirschfield murder trial, with the case scheduled to go to a Sacramento Superior Court jury late next week.
Attorneys for the 63-year-old defendant accused in the Dec. 20, 1980, killlings of UC Davis students John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves finished their case with readings from transcripts and playing taped recordings. The transcripts and recordings contained statements from witnesses that the Hirschfield lawyers say cast suspicion on a group of four defendants who have since been exonerated.
The prosecution called a retired sheriff's detective, Bob Bell, as a rebuttal witness. He testified that his agency, based on its concern over the reliability of informant Ray Gonzales, lost interest in pursuing the so-called "Hunt Group" of defendants. Yolo County authorities picked up the theory that the Hunt Group killed Riggins and Gonsalves and charged the four suspects. But they were forced to dismiss the case when the DNA on a semen-stained blanket found in Riggins van excluded all of them and ultimately pointed toward HIrschfield.
After both sides rested their cases, Judge MIchael W. Sweet scheduled closing arguments in the case for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
Hirschfield is accused of murder and sexual assault in the case. He faces the death penalty if jurors convict him and sustain special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, and murder during the course of a kidnap, rape and forced oral copulation.