DNA may link Sanford to Swanson killing
February 15, 2013
Duct tape used to bind Richard Swanson could forever tie him to his killer.
A DNA expert could not eliminate Andrew Sanford as a contributor to mixtures of genetic material found on duct tape used to bind Swanson during a 1980 robbery of the former South “Y” Shell station, according to Wednesday testimony in El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville.
Sanford, now 50, is accused of killing the 16-year-old during the alleged robbery. Swanson suffocated after the perpetrator of the robbery bound him in duct tape, preventing him from breathing by covering his nose and mouth. Sanford has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
Shawn Kacer, assistant lab director at the Department of Justice Crime Lab in Sacramento, testified Wednesday that blood stains on the tape were largely from the gas station attendant. But Sanford’s DNA could not be eliminated from mixtures contained on several sections of the tape, according to Kacer’s testimony.
One sample of DNA recovered from the tape met requirements for entrance into state and nationwide databases of convicted criminals, Kacer said. The sample was entered into the databases in December 2010. One of the databases came back with a hit on Sanford in January 2011, according to his testimony.
Robert Blasier, an attorney who cross-examined Kacer, questioned the assistant lab director’s testing methods and drew attention to possible controversy within the forensics community about the lab’s specific procedures. He also highlighted contamination of some samples.
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Kacer found both his DNA and the DNA of Jim Jeffery, who examined the evidence in 1980 during testing, according to his testimony.
Prosecutors also called Jefferey, a DOJ criminalist, to the stand Wednesday. The focus of the questioning from attorneys was on his handling of the duct tape from the Swanson crime scene nearly 33 years ago.
Jeffery said he worked on a bench top covered with butcher paper and started off the examination with his bare hands, providing a possible source of the contamination later found by Kacer.
When asked again if he wore any type of glove, Jeffery said he “may or may not have worn” playtex gloves, as it wasn’t protocol in 1980. It was protocol, however, to “never open more than one item at a time,” Jeffery said. He, like Kacer, noted fingerprint dust on one of the pieces of tape.
Prosecutor Patricia Kelliher was expected to call her final witnesses in the preliminary hearing this week. The hearing continues Tuesday. Following the conclusion of the hearing, Judge James Wagoner will decide if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.