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‘Sweetheart Murders’ Trial Defense: DNA Is Not Everything

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The defense began their closing argument Thursday in the “Sweetheart Murders” trial, and they claim the wrong man is on trial.

“Why? Mr. Hirschfield didn’t do it,” said defense attorney Linda Parisi, insisting her client Richard Hirschfield is not the raping, killing monster the prosecution portrays. “We are left in some ways with more questions than answers; and certainly more questions if you want to say Mr. Hirschfield is responsible.”

The case is known as the “Sweetheart Murders.” Hirschfield is accused of killing John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves more than three decades ago.

Both 18, they were kidnapped in Davis on Dec. 20, 1980. Their bodies found dumped near Lake Natoma two days later. Sabrina had been brutally tortured and raped.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Hirshfield was arrested after a DNA hit from a blanket found in the victim’s van.

“We’re not asking you to forget DNA on a blanket. No, don’t, but we’re asking you to be critical, and careful and carefully analyze it,” said Parisi.

The key piece of evidence in the case is now the focus of Parisi’s closing arguments thus far.

“DNA, the end-all be-all, the silent witness, the witness that doesn’t lie, the witness that does not have a motive. Hold on,” said Parisi in her closing argument.

Parisi is insisting the DNA may have been contaminated after all. Evidence handling may not have been the same back in 1980.

But for Sabrina’s sister Andrea Rosenstein, 32 years later, she’s certain it’s enough.

“It is totally accurate. This is a snow job. The DNA does not lie,” said Rosenstein.

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