Sanford sentenced in 30-year-old SLT murder case
EL DORADO COUNTY — Defendant Andrew Evan Sanford, 53, was sentenced to life in prison Monday for the 1980 murder of South Lake Tahoe teen Richard Swanson.
Sanford’s sentence, without the possibility of parole, came after his conviction by an El Dorado County jury for first-degree murder with special circumstances in the death of 16-year-old Swanson at the South Y Gas Station in South Lake Tahoe where Swanson worked as an attendant nearly 35 years ago, according to an El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office press release. The Honorable Judge James Wagoner denied Sanford’s motion for a new trial and imposed the life sentence following the April jury verdict.
Sanford’s conviction came after a cold-case investigation that found DNA on duct tape used to cover Swanson’s mouth and that decades later was found to be Sanford’s.
Swanson had only been working three weeks at his first job as the graveyard shift gas station attendant.
“By all accounts, Richard was a hardworking and diligent employee who took his job seriously and was an all-around ‘good kid,’” the press release stated.
Sanford was 19 years old at the time of the murder. Prior to the murder, Sanford was reportedly involved in crimes such as auto theft and breaking and entering.
The murder occurred on Aug.14, 1980, when, just prior to midnight, Swanson arrived at the gas station and began his graveyard shift as usual, according to the press release. Six hours later, Swanson was found dead in the back storage room of the gas station. He had been beaten, wrapped in duct tape and left to suffocate and die. It was later determined $761 in cash was missing from the register. Sanford reportedly moved out of South Lake Tahoe that 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 press release stated.
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. The task force investigated the case, conducted interviews and re-evaluated forensic evidence that was collected in 1980. The duct tape used on the victim contained traces of DNA, which was uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Sanford’s DNA sample was taken during his booking on unrelated criminal charges, and in January 2011 CODIS matched Sanford’s DNA to the DNA on the duct tape that was used to suffocate Swanson. The Task Force arrested Sanford on March 28, 2012 and the DA’s Office charged him with first-degree murder.
“As in this case, every family who has lost a loved one to violent crime finds that moment and their loss frozen in time,” El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson stated in the press release. “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.”
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