Lack of memory nearly 34 years after the South Lake Tahoe murder of a 16-year-old service station attendant was again evident in the Andrew Sanford trial this week in a Placerville courtroom.
Witnesses Tuesday in El Dorado County Superior Court included former South Lake Tahoe Police Detective Richard Munk, who helped collect evidence at the South Y Shell station where Richard Swanson was murdered in August 1980.
Prosecutors said duct tape was used to bind the victim and asphyxiate him by covering his mouth and nose.
Munk said he didn’t recall there being any cash in the cash register at the service station, although he did remember making notes of credit card receipts and later contacted the card-holders. He also said he was unsure how many cameras were used to photograph evidence, and didn’t remember evidence technician Richard Hartman, who he was assisting, having much training.
Two brown paper evidence bags were brought in by defense attorney Erik Schlueter, who told the court each bag contained a beer can with fingerprints from the scene. Prosecutor Trish Kelliher said the cans were in trash bins at the gas station, and anyone could have tossed them, but Schlueter said the fingerprints were from two men with theft records who could be considered suspects. Kelliher fired back, saying the prints were irrelevant and weren’t connected to the homicide.
Also testifying was Ronald Ficklin, who said he knew Sanford from high school and that Sanford “just popped back into town” in July 1980, and stayed at the home of Ficklin’s grandparents. Ficklin testified that the last time he saw Sanford was when he was kicked out of his grandparents’ home — the night before Swanson’s murder and the night a truck was stolen from his grandfather’s vehicle repossession yard. He also said he and Sanford yelled at and punched one another after he followed Sanford out of the house to make sure he left the home.
Several weeks have been set aside for the trial of Sanford, of Carmichael, Calif., who was arrested two years ago based in part on DNA evidence left behind on the duct tape used to bind Swanson. The trial started March 18.