Former roommate asked by defendant ‘if God forgave murderers’ |

Former roommate asked by defendant ‘if God forgave murderers’

Andrew Sanford enters the courtroom Wednesday morning April 2 with victim Richard Swanson's parents seated in the audience.
Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum |

Witnesses testifying this week in the Placerville trial of Andrew Sanford, accused of an August 1980 South Lake Tahoe murder, included Sanford’s one-time roommate who recalled him asking whether ”God forgave murderers.”

Jenna Weller, testifying Tuesday as Sanford’s El Dorado County Superior Court trial for the killing of Richard Swanson began its third week, said that shortly after moving in with Sanford in mid-2010 they had a conversation about religion that turned into a discussion of murder.

“He asked me if I thought God forgave murderers,” she testified, adding that her response was, “Oh, absolutely, I think so,” She said her reasoning was based on biblical references to God forgiving King David and the Apostle Paul.

Weller said she asked Sanford why he raised the question, and he told her that when he was younger, “he and his friends did something and he thought someone died.” She also said Sanford asked if she could kill, and her reply was that that she could if it came down to “you or me, it’s always you — I want to live.”

Weller also told the court she didn’t really want to know what Sanford was talking about as she needed a place to stay and didn’t want to get into “some kind of moral quandary,” and so she changed the subject “to something lighter.”

Also during Tuesday’s proceedings, prosecutor Trish Kelliher and defense attorney Erik Schlueter reviewed an evidence ledger that described how a roll of duct tape, duct tape on Swanson’s midsection, hands and face and a blood sample were collected and sent to the state Department of Justice, and asked questions of Richard Hartman, the South Lake Tahoe Police evidence technician and CSI at the scene of Swanson’s murder.

Sanford was arrested two years ago based in part on DNA evidence left behind on duct tape used to bind the 16-year-old victim, who had just started working a graveyard shift at the South Y Shell gas station. Kelliher said at the start of the trial that duct tape was used to bind the victim and also to asphyxiate him by covering his mouth and nose.

After Hartman was excused, James Jeffery, a former FBI criminalist, testified to having received wood chips, clothing, a sample of Swanson’s blood, a blood-stained lock and a roll of duct tape. While untangling some of the tape, he accidentally overstretched part of it and then tried to match the ends of the tape with the end of the roll, his notes from the time stated.

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