SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – It took the jury less than a day to decide on the death penalty for Richard Hirschfield, the man convicted of killing two UC Davis students 32 years ago.
The verdict was read at about 2:30 p.m Thursday in Sacramento County Superior Court. Judge Michael Sweet set a Jan. 25 date to order the sentence.
“He’s an animal, you know, plain and simple,” jury foreman Glenn Oliveira said.
Hirschfield, 63, was convicted in November of killing John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, both 18, on Dec. 20, 1980. He kidnapped the young couple, slashed their throats and dumped their bodies in a ravine near Lake Natoma in the Folsom area.
The case, dubbed the “Sweetheart Murders,” went unsolved for years and charges were dropped against four Yolo County residents originally suspected of the murders.
A break in the case came in 2002 when a DNA test on semen collected from a blanket in Riggins’ van came back to Hirschfield.
However, it wasn’t just DNA evidence that convinced the jury, but a note from Hirschfield’s brother Joseph, who wrote about being at the scene of the crime, before committing suicide.
“We gave every single person an individual opportunity to state their case, what they felt about it,” said Oliveira.
Oliveira and Larry Hart both agreed that Hirschfield should be put to death.
The decision, as the foreman, Oliveira says it came with much weight but also relatively quickly.
“There were people that were on the fence. There were people that weren’t ready to make that call,” he said.
After talking it out, the vote was unanimous.
“The decision was made by his actions, what he did and the evidence we were shown,” juror Larry Hart said.
After a trying experience, which at times took them from their families, the two jurors say it’s the families of the victims they’re thinking about.
“Maybe this will give them some closure. That they can begin to celebrate this time of year, celebrate their children’s lives,” said Oliveira.