Reporting Anjali Hemphill
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The judge in the “Sweetheart Murders” case has agreed with the jury’s recommendation that Richard Hirschfield should be put to death for murdering two young college students more than 30 years ago.
“The terrifying methods used to subdue and kill these two young innocent persons are so horrendous, so evil, the weight of this factor alone is simply overwhelming,” said Judge Michael Sweet.
Sweet sentenced Hirschfield, 63, to death in Sacramento County Superior Court after hearing from the victims’ families and friends.
“It was much harder than I thought it would be, but we’re done,” Sabrina Gonsalves’ sister Andrea Gonsalves-Rosenstein said.
John Riggins and Gonsalves were kidnapped and killed in December 1980, their throats slashed and their bodies dumped in a ravine near Lake Natoma in the Folsom area.
“We will never know the gifts that John and Sabrina would have given society, but we do know Hirschfield’s contribution, humiliation, pain and death,” John’s father Richard said.
Sweet heard 20 letters from the victims’ family and friends before handing Hirschfield the death penalty.
Almost every seat in the court room was filled with not just family and friends, but also jury members who came to make sure the judge upheld their decision.
“In the end, justice is served today. There’s an old saying, ‘You can run, but you can’t hide.’ It’s very relieving,’ one juror said.
It’s a relief felt most by the victims’ families, who have hoped for years their loved ones’ killer would meet a punishment to match their pain.
“They could not bring our children back to us, but they did persevere over 32 years to see that the guilty parties were brought to justice,” said Richard.
The case went unsolved for decades until DNA evidence tied Hirschfield to the crime. He was convicted in November and the jury voted for the death penalty in December.
Hirschfield’s attorney Linda Parisi says she plans to appeal the ruling.