Placerville, Calif- Jury finds Andrew Sanford guilty of First Degree Murder with special circumstances in the death of 16 year old Richard Swanson. The 4 men 8 women jury deliberated for less than 2 days before rendering their verdict of Guilty. The victim, 16 year old Richard Swanson, had only been working three weeks at his first job as the graveyard shift gas station attendant at the South Y Gas Station in the quite City of South Lake Tahoe, California. By all accounts Richard was a hardworking and diligent employee who took his job seriously and was an all-around “good kid”. The defendant, Andrew Sanford was 19 years old at the time and known as a trouble maker. Sanford was involved in small time crimes such as auto theft and breaking and entering. Sanford hung around the gas station in the evening hours with his friend who worked there, Donald Fickland. Sanford knew the routine of the employees, the lay out of the gas station, and where the money was deposited. On August 14, 1980 just prior to midnight Richard Swanson arrived at the gas station and began his graveyard shift as usual. 6 hours later Richard was found dead in the back storage room of the gas station. Richard had been beaten, wrapped in duct tape and left to suffocate and die. It was later determined $761.02 in cash was missing from the register. Andrew Sanford moved from South Lake Tahoe that very same day. The South Lake Tahoe Police Department investigated the case, conducted interviews, and collected the duct tape used on the victim that would later provide crucial DNA evidence linking Sanford to the crime.
Nearly 30 years later, Andrew Sanford was arrested for domestic violence in Sacramento County. Sanford’s DNA sample was taken at booking and imputed into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). In January 2011 CODIS matched Sanford’s DNA to the DNA on the duct tape that was used to suffocate the victim. Sanford was arrested on March 28, 2012 and charged with first degree murder. District Attorney Vern Pierson commented “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”. DA Pierson also personally 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. The sentencing phase of the case is set for June 16, 2014 at 1:30 pm in Department 1. This is the second cold case murder conviction the District Attorney’s Office has obtained in recent months.