Sanford pleads not guilty in Swanson killing |

Sanford pleads not guilty in Swanson killing

Adam Jensen
Andrew Evan Sanford

The man accused of killing a 16-year-old South Shore gas station attendant more than 30 years ago pleaded not guilty to murder during an arraignment Friday in Placerville.

Andrew Evan Sanford, 50, “adamantly denies” killing Richard Swanson, said Clifford Safranski, El Dorado County deputy public defender, following Friday’s hearing.

Swanson’s body was found bound and gagged at the former South “Y” Shell station Aug. 14, 1980. He suffocated on his gag following a robbery of the gas station.

El Dorado County prosecutors have charged Sanford with one count of premeditated murder and one count of murder during the commission of a robbery under California’s felony murder rule, Safranski said. The public defender entered not guilty pleas for the Carmichael resident Friday.

Sanford appeared at Friday’s arraignment wearing standard-issue orange jail garb. He held his right arm, which was wrapped in a bandage, over his heart for most of the hearing.

Traveling Judge Edward Lacy denied a media request to take pictures at the arraignment. A bailiff said the request was denied based on the judge’s discretion.

Sanford did not address the court other than saying “yes” when asked by Lacy if he waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days. Sanford is being held without bail in El Dorado County Jail in Placerville.

Outside of Friday’s hearing, El Dorado County Deputy District Attorney Tricia Kelliher told Safranksi she expected to get the defense the voluminous discovery in the case on Monday. The discovery is extensive, in part, because of the number of people interviewed in the case, Kelliher said.

She also told Safranski that Sanford was not questioned in connection with the death of Swanson in 1980, but denied involvement in the killing following an arrest on suspicion of car theft in 1986.

Sanford does not have a criminal record in El Dorado County.

Although Safranski has not seen the discovery in the case, he said it is a “reasonable estimate” that – because the case is now entering the court system 31 years after Swanson’s death – the prosecution’s case will include some kind of recently unearthed genetic link.

He said he is curious to see the new evidence in the case.

“Something new has happened obviously,” Safranski said.

Kelliher did not immediately return a voicemail requesting comment Friday afternoon.

Swanson’s parents, Ron and Sharon Swanson, as well as his brother, Bob Swanson, sat in the audience at Friday’s arraignment, traveling about two hours each way from Sonora, Calif., to attend the five-minute hearing.

Ron Swanson said family members will be at every hearing in the case. Although he is still reluctant to discuss details to avoid jeopardizing the prosecution, he emphasized his appreciation of investigators’ efforts. Swanson provided additional comments in a statement written by Sharon Swanson.

“We think of Richard everyday,” Sharon Swanson said. “The good times and events. He was in Little League and Judo classes prior to moving to Tahoe. Rich loved dirt biking, target practice, water skiing, snow skiing, fishing and driving the truck that he had just bought. He was a good student, took on responsibility, was a hard worker and was a very caring person. We were proud of him. He always helped anyone in need. Rich was a happy person who had a lot of friends. Many came to his funeral.”

She said the family still wonders what Richard Swanson’s life would have been like, including who he would have married and who his children would have been.

“When you lose a child, it leaves a void in your life that can never be replaced, but life must go on,” Sharon Swanson said. “We are blessed with our son Bob, his wife, two grandsons and two step-granddaughters. Life is good. We are a close family, but are mindful of how fragile life is.”

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April 16.

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