Sacto 9-1-1
October 11, 2012
Testimony in Davis 'sweethearts' case reflects passage of time since double slayings

Today's proceedings in the Davis "sweethearts" trial were a reminder of just how long this case has been winding its way through Sacramento's criminal justice system.

First, jurors heard from Dr. Pierce Rooney - or at least a videotaped version of him. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on John Riggins - killed with his girlfriend Sabrina Gonsalves just before Christmas in 1980 - has died since he testified in the 2007 preliminary hearing to decide whether Richard Hirschfield would stand trial for the murders.

A judge ruled that he should stand trial, and the video of that 2007 testimony was played Friday for jurors who are now tasked with deciding whether Hirschfield is responsible for the brutal slayings more than three decades ago.

After Rooney, jurors heard from retired criminologist Ken Mack, who was director of the county's crime lab at the time of the killings.

Mack, who retired in the late 1990s, is elderly now and had to be pulled from an in-patient rehabilitation center to testify in court. And although he - like Rooney at the time of his 2007 testimony - could not recall all details of his involvement in the investigation, Mack was confident in much of his testimony, despite rigorous questioning by defense attorney Linda Parisi, who sought to attack the crime lab and its handling of key evidence in the case.

Riggins and Gonsalves were both 18 and students at University of California, Davis when they disappeared. Their bodies were found in a ditch off Folsom Boulevard in Sacramento, their throats cut and bodies bludgeoned.

Hirschfield, 63, also is accused of raping Gonsalves. He faces a possible death penalty if he is convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet was expected to rest her case today. However, she is expected to call at least one more witness Monday.

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