Sacto 9-1-1
December 6, 2012
Jury recommends death penalty in Hirschfield murder trial

A Sacramento Superior Court jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for Richard Joseph Hirschfield, who was convicted of murder last month in the deaths of UC Davis sweethearts more than 30 years ago.

The panel announced its verdict before Judge Michael W. Sweet in a crowded downtown Sacramento courtroom.

Last month, the jury had convicted Hirschfield in the Dec. 20, 1980, murders of John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, both 18. They had been abducted after working as volunteers on The Davis Children's Nutcracker. Their bodies were found two days later in a ditch 30 miles away near Lake Natoma. Their throats had been slashed, and Gonsalves had been sexually attacked.

It took the jury 3 1/2 hours to deliberate before reaching its decision in the guilt phase of the Hirschfield trial. The panel informed Sweet's courtroom today at 10:30 a.m. that it had a verdict on whether Hirschfield should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole. Their deliberations on whether to recommend death or life without parole for Hirschfield began Wednesday and lasted a total of 2 1/2 hours.

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