Conviction Handed Down In 30 Year Old Cold Case

A former South Lake Tahoe man has been found guilty by a Placerville Jury of a murder that is over 30-years-old.

On August 14, 1980, 16-year-old Richard Swanson was three weeks into his very first job. He was working the graveyard shift as an attendant at the South Y Gas Station in South Lake Tahoe, California. He went into work as usual but would not return home.

Swanson’s body was found six hours into his shift in the back storage room of the gas station. He had been beaten, wrapped in duct tape and left to suffocate and die. An investigation revealed that over $760 was also missing from the register.

19-year-old Andrew Sanford was also known to hang around the gas station during the same time period. Known as a trouble maker, Sanford was tied to small time crimes such as auto theft and breaking and entering. He could be found at the station during the evening hours with his friend who worked there, Donald Fickland. Because of his time there, Sanford new the routine of the employees, the lay out of the gas station, and where the money was deposited.

The same day that Swanson’s body was found, Sanford left South Lake Tahoe. He was not heard from for nearly 30 years until he was arrested in Sacramento County for domestic violence. In January of 2011, his DNA was taken and placed into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

This was break for investigators because that DNA matched evidence found on the duct tape used to restrain Swanson. Sanford was arrested on March 28, 2012 and charged with first degree murder. The jury released their verdict Wednesday.

Sanford will be sentenced on June 16, 2014.

District Attorney Vern Pierson writes in a press release “Nothing can bring their son Richard back, but it is my hope that Richard’s mother and father may find some peace knowing the person responsible for their son’s death is finally being held responsible for his actions.”

He also recognized all those who participated in the investigation and prosecution of this case, in particular, Deputy DA Trish Kelliher for her diligence and hard work bringing this killer to justice.

This is the second conviction in a cold case in six months by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office.

On October 31, 2013, Joseph Nissensohn was convicted in a South Lake Tahoe courtroom for the 1981 Monterey County murder of 13 year old Tammy Jarschke, 14 year old Tanya Jones, and for the 1989 South Lake Tahoe murder of 15 year old Kathy Graves.

The jury deliberated for only 90 minutes before handing down that verdict. In November, Nissensohn received the death penalty.

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