Sacto 9-1-1
November 1, 2013
El Dorado County jury convicts man in 1980s slayings of three teens

A man who previously served prison time for a murder in Washington state has been convicted by an El Dorado County jury of the 1980s slayings of three teenage girls, including 15-year-old Kathy Graves of South Lake Tahoe.

Joseph Michael Nissensohn was found guilty Thursday of three first-degree murders in the 1989 death of Graves, and the 1981 slayings of Tammy Jarschke, 13, and Tanya Jones, 14, in Monterey County, according to an El Dorado County District Attorney's Office news release. The jury also found true additional special circumstances allegations, including the 1989 Washington murder of Sally Jo Tsaggaris, 46.

The guilt phase of the trial began May 14 with jury selection. Nissensohn faces the death penalty, with the penalty phase of the trial to begin Nov. 12 in South Lake Tahoe, authorities said.

October 14, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 Crime Q&A: What happened to culprit in 2008 slaying on Salmon Falls Drive?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: What happened to the person who shot Edward Chaney on Salmon Falls Drive in Rancho Cordova in 2008 or 2009?
Submitted by: Diana, Fair Oaks

ANSWER: The slaying of Edward Chaney in November 2008 remains unsolved.

January 22, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Was anyone arrested in 1970 killing of nurse?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: In or around 1969 or 1970, a nurse by the name of Judith Ann Hakari was kidnapped in the late evening from the parking lot of Sutter Memorial Hospital. Her body was found in a shallow grave in Weimar. Were there any arrests made in connection with this crime?
Submitted by: Nancy, Carmichael

ANSWER: The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department website lists the death of Judith Ann Hakari as one of the homicide cases being re-evaluated by its Cold Case Investigations Unit.

October 16, 2012
Informant sticks to decades-old murder story; DA blasts him

A police informant who was central to a now-discredited theory of murder in the killings of two UC Davis students 32 years ago reaffirmed today that one of four defendants charged but later released in the case admitted to him that he and another of the original suspects were responsible for the slayings.

Raymond Gonzales, a long-time operative for assorted Sacramento area law enforcement agencies, said that Richard Thompson told him that he and David Hunt committed the Dec. 20, 1980 murders of John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves.

DNA extracted from a semen-stained blanket in Riggins van, however, excluded Hunt, Thompson and two others originally-charged defendants, and Yolo County prosecutors were forced to drop charges on them. The Sacramento DA's office, meanwhile, charged Richard Joseph Hirschfield with the murders, based on the DNA evidence, and it was in his trial that Gonzales testified today as a defense witness. Hirschfield faces the death penalty if he is convicted.

August 2, 2012
DNA analysis identifies suspect in woman's 1976 murder

A suspect in the murder of a woman 36 years ago in a Sacramento hotel has been identified through recent DNA analysis, according to Sacramento police.

On Sept. 4, 1976, Sacramento police officers responded to investigate the murder of Mary H. Van Slavens, 60, who was found strangled in her hotel room in the 1100 block of Seventh Street. Homicide detectives processed the scene, interviewed witnesses, collected evidence and later exhausted all leads, according to a Police Department news release. Robbery appeared to have been the motive for the murder.

In March, 2011, Sacramento police cold case detectives submitted evidence from the victim's autopsy kit to the Sacramento County District Attorney's Crime Lab for DNA analysis.

June 12, 2012
Suspect arrested in 1996 homicide of teenage girl

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department arrested a suspect in a 16-year-old homicide case of a teenage girl.

Terry Glen Short, 41, was taken into local custody Tuesday morning in connection with the death of Jessica Sanchez, 13, according to a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department news release.

In February of 1996, Sanchez's body was found in Florin Creek Park along Persimmon Avenue in south Sacramento.

May 25, 2012
DNA 'cold hits' help identify suspects in unsolved cases

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced Friday that as result of DNA analyses by the District Attorney's crime lab, suspects have been identified in three unsolved cases in recent months.

Evidence from crime scenes and victims is sent to the crime lab where criminalists examine it for DNA. Any DNA profiles found in unsolved cases are entered into the national DNA database of criminal offenders in an attempt to identify suspects.

Since April 2000, 24 cold hit homicide cases were filed in Sacramento County as a result of DNA analysis, according to a District Attorney's Office news release.

April 27, 2012
Sacramento police seek leads in woman's 2006 stabbing death

Mrs. Line Withrow.jpgSacramento police are seeking the community's help in solving a six-year-old homicide case.

At 3:19 p.m. April 28, 2006, 67-year-old Line Withrow (pictured), a retired occupational therapist, was walking down the sidewalk near 37th and P streets when a vehicle drove up next to her. Without provocation, a knife-wielding assailant got out of his vehicle and ran up to Withrow, according to a Police Department news release. The two struggled over her purse, and the assailant stabbed Withrow repeatedly with the knife.

Withrow was taken to a local hospital and died two days later of injuries suffered in the attack.

March 21, 2012
Suspect arrested in 1996 slaying of teenage girl in south Sacramento

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department has arrested a suspect in the slaying of a teenage girl in south Sacramento 16 years ago.

Sheriff's homicide detectives today served an arrest warrant on Terry Glen Short, 41, who was located in Nevada where he is in custody on unrelated charges, according to a Sheriff's Department news release. Short is expected to be extradited to Sacramento County, where he will be formally charged with one count of homicide, officials said.

In February 1996, the Sheriff's Department investigated the death of Jessica Sanchez, 13, whose body was found in Florin Creek Park along Persimmon Avenue. Evidence suggested that she had been sexually assaulted and shot in the upper body. As time passed, leads in the case were exhausted and the investigation grew cold, officials said, but a DNA profile of the suspect was established.

Near the end of of 2011, homicide detectives received information that DNA evidence linked Short to the crime. After further investigation, detectives secured an arrest warrant for Short.

November 3, 2011
Man pleads guilty to 2000 murder of fellow transient man in Roseville

A transient man pleaded guilty today to second-degree murder of a fellow transient in 2000, according to the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Michael Elijah Adams is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 15 for killing 46-year-old John Semler Owens, whose body was found on a gravel service road in Roseville on Jan. 21, 2000, according to a news release from the DA's office. Owens had suffered blunt force trauma to his head.

Early in the investigation, police identified a suspect who gave the name Michael A. Thomas. Police later learned his real name was Michael Elijah Adams, but were not able to find him, the release states.

August 29, 2011
Grants to Sacramento County crime lab will help cut forensic backlog

Two grants to the Sacramento County DA's office will help speed up crime lab turnaround time for analyzing DNA evidence and replace forensic equipment.

The grants, which total $687,000, are much needed after years of budget cuts to her department, said District Attorney Jan Scully. The cuts have reduced both staff and equipment, she said, and the monies will help cut forensic work backlog.

The grants:

-- State Department of Justice DNA backlog program: $586,429 will fund crime lab analysts, consultants for case screening, training and equipment purchases.

-- Cloverdell Forensic Science Improvment program: $100,625 will be used for equipment and analytical system upgrades.

July 8, 2011
Nevada County authorities seek help with 27-year-old cold-case death

coldcase.jpgNevada County sheriff's deputies are asking for the public's help in solving a 27-year-old case.

The investigation focuses on the death of an unidentified woman whose body was found July 8, 1984, six miles north of Nevada City along state Highway 49.

She was found 50 feet below a dirt parking area, two to three weeks after police think she died.

July 7, 2011
Help sought to identify woman in Nevada County cold case

1984 homicide sketch.bmpThe Nevada County Sheriff's Office seeks the public's help in identifying a woman whose body was found 27 year's ago and is believed to be the victim of a homicide.

The body of a young woman was discovered July 8, 1984, six miles north of Nevada City along Highway 49, just south of the Independence Trail head, according to a Sheriff's Department news release. The body was about 50 feet below a dirt parking area.

The possible cause of death was identified as strangulation, and the woman was believed to have been dead two to three weeks before the body was found.

June 13, 2011
Sheriff's detectives make arrest in cold-case 2007 homicide

Rivers.jpgSacramento County Sheriff's detectives have arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the 2007 slaying of 39-year-old John Pogacar near Rancho Cordova, the sheriff's department reported.

Kirk Jared Rivers, 22, left, walked into the sheriff's department Monday afternoon and handed a security officer a note in which he claimed responsibility for the killing of a man in 2007, said sheriff's department spokesman Deputy Jason Ramos.

Rivers was detained and interviewed by homicide detectives, who determined there was enough evidence to arrest Rivers in connection with Pogacar's death, according to a sheriff's department news release.

April 15, 2011
Man pleads guilty to 1981 murder of 88-year-old Sacramento woman

A man accused of the 1981 first-degree murder of a blind, deaf 88-year-old Sacramento woman has pleaded guilty to the crime.

Leroy Veal, 60, admitted killing Pauline Colombatto and to three special circumstances allegations that the crime occurred during the commission of burglary, attempted robbery and rape, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office announced today.

In exchange for the plea to these offenses and a waiver of appellate rights, the District Attorney's Office agreed not to pursue the death penalty, but to instead have Veal sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

June 16, 2010
AG study: Prop 69 helping solve cold cases statewide

By Kim Minugh

Proposition 69, which requires arrested suspects to submit to DNA tests even when accused of nonviolent crimes, is reaching its intended goal of helping solve cold cases across the state, according to an analysis by the Attorney General's office.

Since the law went into effect in the beginning of 2008, more than 800 matches have been made between the DNA of newly arrested suspects to DNA samples from crime scenes in older cases, the AG's office stated in a news release today.

"Collecting DNA at the time of arrest is cracking cold cases that might have gone unsolved forever," Attorney General Jerry Brown is quoted as saying in the release. "It is particularly significant that individuals arrested for non-violent crimes have been linked to the commission of violent crimes such as murder and rape."

The AG's office looked at 69 DNA matches made over 15 months, the release states. Of those 69 matches, 78 percent involved new DNA samples taken from suspects arrested on suspicion of non-violent crimes, according to the release.

Proposition 69, passed by California voters in 2004, broadened the scope of existing practice in which law enforcement officials collected DNA samples from suspects arrested in connection with violent felony offenses. Now, under the new law, DNA samples are collected from suspects accused of any felony offense, violent or not.

In his release, Brown cited a Sacramento case as evidence of the proposition's success. In 2009, 56-year-old Donald Carter was arrested on a felony drug charge. His DNA sample then was matched to DNA collected in the previously unsolved, 20-year-old murder case of Sophie McAllister, 80.

Carter is awaiting trial.

To see a copy of the study, click below:


Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

June 19, 2009
Sacramento PD makes arrest in 2005 car-chase slaying

20090619-131.pdf - Adobe Reader.JPGFrom Kim Minugh:

Roy Houston celebrated his 23rd birthday at the Sacramento County Main Jail.

Houston (photo) was booked there Thursday night on suspicion of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, among other charges, according to booking records. U.S. Marshals picked up Houston last week in the Texas city that shares his name, and he was extradited Thursday, said Sacramento police Sgt. Norm Leong.

Houston is accused of killing 21-year-old Donald Ray McCall in a February 2005 car chase in North Sacramento, Leong said.

The initial investigation went cold, until a probation search revealed the weapon used to kill McCall, Leong said. With the help of cold case grant funding and two persistent detectives, police acquired an arrest warrant for Houston earlier this year.

He already was wanted in connection with another shooting in 2005, Leong said. He faces a charge of assault with a deadly weapon and firing a weapon into an occupied dwelling or vehicle in connection with that case, according to booking records.

In connection with McCall's death, Houston faces one count of murder and one count of assault on a person with a semiautomatic firearm, records show.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Detectives believe there are people with information about the homicide that have not come forward. They are asking those people come forward, now that Houston is in custody. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP.

June 17, 2009
CHP seeking public's help in cold case hit-and-run death

Bee Staff

The California Highway Patrol is asking the public's help in solving a cold-case - a 2002 hit-and-run death in Tracy.

The CHP news release from Officer Robert Rickman included a warning to the suspect: "We will not stopping looking for you."

The CHP gave this account:

At 8:49 a.m. on June 15, 2002, an unidentified driver made an unsafe lane change, striking Brian Sabanal's vehicle. The impact caused Sabanal's vehicle to swerve off the roadway and overturn several times, ejecting Sabanal from the vehicle.

The collision occurred on eastbound Interstate 205, west of Tracy Boulevard. Sabanal was driving a white GMC four-wheel drive pickup.

The suspect was driving a Toyota-type pickup truck. The truck was small, possibly a compact, gray or blue in color. The vehicle would have damage to the driver's side door.

The suspect stopped in the center divider but then fled eastbound on I-205. There were two occupants in the vehicle.

The driver was described as a while male in his 20s, 6 feet, 3 inches tall with short brown hair that was possible spiked. The passenger was described as a white female in her 20s with brown hair.

Information may be supplied anonymously and "need not be conclusive by itself," Rickman said.

"We believe that someone has information could lead to solving Brian's case - comments to friends made the passenger or driver, suspicious vehicle damage, etc.," Rickman said. "All hold potential for valuable investigatory leads."

June 11, 2009
Sacramento PD asks for help in solving 1983 slaying

From Chelsea Phua:

Sacramento police detectives are asking the public's help to solve the cold-case murder of a 19-year-old Redding girl whose body was found in 1983 and remained unidentified for more than two decades until recent DNA results determined who she was.

According to a news release, Elizabeth Nichols died from being physically assaulted and her body was spotted by a passer-by in a drainage canal near Interstate 5 and Del Paso Road on March 4, 1983.

Nichols' mother, Alice Nichols, said her daughter went missing on Feb. 19, 1983.

Authorities said she walked away from a mental hospital in Shasta County.

Alice Nichols said Los Angeles police detectives contacted her two years ago to obtain DNA samples from her because they believed a body they found there might have been her daughter's. The DNA didn't match Elizabeth Nichols but the samples were entered into a DNA database used by law enforcement.

The DNA did match the body of a woman found in Sacramento.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Alert at 916-443-HELP or text in a tip to 274637 (CRIMES). When texting, enter SACTIP followed by the tip information. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

May 5, 2009
Redding police say DNA links inmate to 20-year-old strangling

By Bill Lindelof

Redding police have obtained an arrest warrant charging a state prison inmate with a 20-year-old homicide.

Police said Brian Harper, 39, of Redding, an inmate at Corcoran State Prison in Kings County, is linked through DNA evidence with the killing of Judith Hasselstrom, whose body was found Aug. 7, 1988 in the city's Caldwell Park.

Hasselstrom's body, clad only in underwear, was found under what police said was bamboo. Officers found blood and fingerprints on the bamboo but had no luck finding a match.

An autopsy revealed that Hasselstrom had been strangled.

Police said a break in the case occurred when Harper was arrested and found guilty of robbing a Redding bank Nov. 7, 2007. Sentenced to state prison, his fingerprints and DNA samples were entered into a file system that led to his arrest on the cold case.

Redding police said Harper initially denied knowing about the Hasselstrom killing. However, according to a press release, he admitted to the crime when confronted with DNA and fingerprint evidence.

February 25, 2009
Sacramento Police hope DNA match in Missouri will solve '92 homicide

mizzou.JPGFrom Bill Lindelof:

Police hope that the recent incarceration of a criminal in Missouri will solve a 16-year-old cold case homicide in Sacramento.

Sacramento Police on Tuesday obtained an arrest warrant for Michael Peterson (left photo), 44, in connection with the 1992 murder of John Arana.

Arana died from stab wounds Nov. 5, 1992, at his home in the 5400 block of 10th Avenue. A few days after his death, his stolen truck was found about a mile form his home.

No progress was made on the case, but a review of evidence from the Arana homicide resulted in a DNA profile being developed in 2003. That DNA was compared to state and national DNA databases, but there was no match.

Then, last month, cold case detectives received a call from Sacramento County Criminalist Jeff Herbert, who told them that a DNA match with Peterson and the Arana case had been made. Peterson had recently been convicted and sent to prison in Missouri, causing his DNA profile to be entered into a database.

Michael Peterson.jpgPeterson, according to a news release, has an extensive criminal history in California and Missouri. He was on parole at the time of the Arana murder. Sacramento Police have issued a photo (at right) of Peterson as he looked in 1992, hoping someone remembers him or details about the case.

Detectives and the Sacramento District Attorney's office are working to bring Peterson to California for prosecution.

Arana, a part-time driver for a print shop who lived alone, was discovered by a friend who dropped by the victim's home.

February 11, 2009
Citrus Heights mom hopes for answers to daughter's '02 slaying

From Sandy Louey:

Seven years after Heather Lee Ann Hibbs was found beaten to death, her mother is still waiting for answers. (Photo below shows Hibbs at age 20.)

Hibbs, 21, was found beaten to death Feb. 10, 2002 in a remote area outside of Vacaville, said her mother Wendy Burton of Citrus Heights.

On Tuesday, the seventh anniversary of Hibbs' body being found, Burton announced a new tip line and Web site in hopes to drawing attention to the unsolved case.

"We have no answers," said Burton, 47. "We want to know who did this to her."

Hibbs, a Vacaville resident, was reported missing in late January 2002. The last known sighting of her was at the Solano Mall in Fairfield on Jan. 23, Burton said.

The Solano County District Attorney's cold case unit is looking into the case. Burton hopes a Web site and tip line will assist their efforts.

There is an outstanding $50,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest in Hibbs' death.

The Web site is at Anyone with information is asked to call 1-866-997-TIPS.

Heahter 20 years old.jpg

February 9, 2009
Sacramento police link prison inmate to 1995 slaying

suspect.jpgFrom Niesha Lofing:

Police cold case detectives have linked a prison inmate to the 1995 slaying of a Sacramento man.

Sacramento police detectives obtained an arrest warrant Tuesday naming Kevin Dunigan (left photo), 45, as the alleged assailant in the death of Gary Veirs, police Sgt. Norm Leong stated in a news release.

Veirs, 36, was found stabbed to death about 6:14 p.m. Aug. 29, 1995, in front of his home in the 7300 block of Stockdale Street.

victim.jpgVeirs (right photo) was killed after chasing and hitting a man who had commented to Veirs' girlfriend, who was in the front yard when the man walked by, according to a past Bee article.

Veirs died at UC Davis Medical Center.

The assailant was described as a black man in his early 30s, between 5-foot-10 and 5-foot-11, Leong said.

In September 2006 cold case Det. Pat Keller reviewed the case and requested that foreign DNA found on the victim be examined. In December, the DNA match was found, and Dunigan was identified as the alleged assailant, he said.

Dunigan was on parole at the time. He is in state prison on unrelated charges.

September 11, 2008
Assault leads to arrest of Redding man in cold-case killing

From Niesha Lofing:

A Redding man is facing murder charges in a cold-case homicide after allegedly assaulting a woman who helped him bury the person he allegedly killed nearly 10 years ago.

A Redding woman contacted authorities in Largo, Fla., after Robert Glenn Temple, 58, allegedly threatened her and held a knife to her throat in front of their 3-year-old daughter on Aug. 25 at their home, Redding police said.

The woman told Pinellas County sheriff's detectives that she had moved to the Redding area with Temple in 2008.

She told detectives that she had information about the nearly decade-old killing and accused Temple of murdering his wife, Rosemary Christensen, 44, in Florida. The woman said she helped Temple clean the crime scene and bury Christensen's body in the north part of the state, police said.

Florida authorities contacted Redding police on Sept. 3 to aid in the investigation.

Redding police investigated the domestic violence incident and arrested Temple on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats, police said. Temple is being held in the Shasta County Jail.

On Sunday, Pinellas County sheriff's detectives flew the woman to Florida so she could show them where Christensen's body was buried.

Detectives located the body Monday, buried on property owned by the Redding woman's father in north Florida, police said.

Pinellas County detectives Wednesday obtained an arrest warrant for Temple, accusing him of murdering Christensen on Aug. 26, 1999, police said.

July 29, 2008
Update: Reconstruction sketch of victim's face released

mw.jpgSacramento sheriff's homicide detectives continue to need the public's help in identifying a woman whose remains were found in March in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Investigators believe the woman had been dead nearly four years before a fisherman found her March 29 in the 17000 block of Tyler Island Road. The woman, who detectives said was likely the victim of a homicide, was found in dense brush.

The woman was either white or Latino and stood between 5-foot-1 inch and 5-foot-8.

Today, investigators released a reconstruction sketch of the victim's face, left. Investigators are releasing the sketch and re-releasing photos of photographs of three distinctive items of jewelry and clothing the victim was wearing.

Click here for Ryan Lillis' initial story about the missing woman and to see the photos of the jewelry and clothing.

Anyone who recognizes the woman portrayed in the sketch or any of the items in the photographs is urged to call the Sacramento Sheriff's Department at (916) 874-5115, or the Sacramento County Coroner's Office at (916) 874-9320.

Callers who wish to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 can call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

June 3, 2008
SFGate: Suspect named in mysterious 20-year-old slaying of SF officer

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that investigators believe they have a lead in the fatal shooting two decades ago of Lester Garnier, an off-duty San Francisco vice officer.

Catherine Kuntz, 44, is now serving time in Florida for possessing cocaine. Investigators, using modern computer technology, traced a fingerprint in Garnier's Corvette to Kuntz.

Her mugshot, courtesy of the State of Florida:

May 15, 2008
Clothing could be clues to woman's ID

jacket2.jpgFrom Ryan Lillis:

Sacramento sheriff's homicide detectives need the public's help in identifying a woman whose remains were found in March in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Investigators believe the woman had been dead nearly four years before a fisherman found her March 29 in the 17000 block of Tyler Island Road. The woman, who detectives said was likely the victim of a homicide, was found in dense brush.

The woman was either white or Latino and stood between 5-foot-1 inch and 5-foot-8.

She was found with a light-colored zippered Grateful Dead jacket, top, with a multi-colored band around the collar and waist area, a beaded necklace, bottom right, with a tarnished crouching frog, and a dark blue pullover sweatshirt, bottom left, with the words "Delta Fire Crew" and two crossed fireman's axes with the No. 5 on the left chest area.

Anyone with information on who the woman might be is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-HELP. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

delta2.jpg necklace4.jpg

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