El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson Announces the Sentencing of First Degree Murder Defendant Andrew Sanford Who Was Recently Convicted of the 1980 Slaying of 16 Year Old South Lake Tahoe Gas Station Attendant Richard Swanson
Placerville, CA – El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson announced the sentencing of first degree murder defendant Andrew Sanford who was recently convicted of the 1980 slaying of 16 year old South Lake Tahoe gas station attendant Richard Swanson. On February 23, 2015, 53 year old defendant Andrew Evan Sanford was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, after his conviction by an El Dorado County jury for first degree murder with special circumstances in the death of 16 year old Richard Swanson. The Honorable Judge James Wagoner denied Sanford’s motion for a new trial and imposed the life sentence following the April, 2014 jury verdict.
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 quiet 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 he murdered Swanson and was known locally as a trouble maker. Prior to the murder, Sanford was involved in small time crimes such as auto theft and breaking and entering.
On August 14, 1980, just prior to midnight, Richard Swanson arrived at the gas station and began his graveyard shift as usual. Six 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 by defendant Sanford. It was later determined $761.02 in cash was missing from the register. Sanford moved from South Lake Tahoe that very same day.
In 2007, El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson created the DA’s Office Cold Case Homicide Unit, and worked with local law enforcement to form a Cold Case Task Force in order to enhance the investigation of cold cases like the Swanson murder. The El Dorado County Cold Case Homicide Task Force includes members from South Lake Tahoe Police Department, both the El Dorado County Sheriff and District Attorney’s Offices, and a senior criminalist from the California Department of Justice. This task force investigated the case, conducted interviews, and painstakingly re-evaluated forensic evidence which was collected in 1980. The duct tape used on the victim contained traces of DNA. This DNA profile was uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Defendant Sanford’s DNA sample was taken during his booking on unrelated criminal charges. In January, 2011 CODIS matched Sanford’s DNA to the DNA on the duct tape that was used to suffocate Swanson. The Task Force then arrested Sanford on March 28, 2012 and the DA’s Office charged him with first degree murder.
District Attorney Vern Pierson commented, “As in this case, every family who has lost a loved one to violent crime finds that moment and their loss frozen in time. Nothing can bring their son Richard back, but it is my hope that Richard’s parents and family members may find some peace knowing that the person responsible for their son’s death has finally been held responsible for his actions.” At sentencing, Deputy DA Trish Kelliher, who prosecuted the case and obtained the guilty verdict, commented “Justice at last. At least Richard has some peace.”
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