SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The jury in the trial of the accused “Sweetheart Murders” killer, Richard Hirschfield, has reached a guilty verdict.
The verdict was read at about 4:25 p.m. Monday on the first day of deliberations. Hirschfield was on trial for torturing and killing John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves back in December 1980. The 18-year-old UC Davis students were kidnapped and found dumped near Lake Natoma two days later.
Hirschfield was linked by DNA years later in 2004 from a blanket found in Riggins’ van.
The jury found true the special circumstances of kidnap and oral copulation but found Hirschfield not guilty of rape.
“I’m just so greatly relieved,” John’s mother Cecelia said after the verdict.
But for the murder victims’ families, it was still hard to hold back the tears.
“We won’t be able to bring him back nor Sabrina, but we hope this is the beginning of justice in this horrendous case,” Cecelia Riggins said.
After 32 years waiting for justice, the wear and tear of grief and sadness were evident on their faces, but the families found strength in each other.
“We couldn’t be here today hadn’t we had their support,” Cecelia Riggins said.
But the relief was short-lived. The trial moves on to the penalty phase Nov. 26. Hirschfield is eligible for the death penalty.
“It’s over, but is it really over? This part is over,” Sabrina’s sister Andrea Gonsalves-Rosenstein said.
“It’s not over,” John’s father Richard said. “We still have the penalty phase. It’s really important too. The first stage is done and I’m pleased with it.”