Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sanford trial: Prosecution, defense rest


MURDER DEFENDANT Andrew Sanford, left, smiles as he speaks with his attorney Erik Schlueter in Department 1 Superior Court Thursday April 17.

From page A1 | April 18, 2014 |

April 15 saw the last of the testimony of the Andrew Sanford murder trial.

The day began with an argument over including then-16-year-old victim Richard Swanson’s hat size in evidence, but Judge James R. Wagoner struck down the inclusion due to lack of foundation and relevance.

The jury was let in and the judge read stipulations agreed to by defense attorney Erik Schlueter and prosecutor Trish Kelliher. First, that audio heard in court had been cleaned up by members of the District Attorney’s Office but the content itself had not been changed.

The second stipulation was concerning two cases of arrests, with testimony being given by the arresting officers; they were arrests of the defendant, Sanford, despite Sanford giving false names at the times of arrest.

The third stipulation was that Angelo Riente told DA Investigator Paul Moschini that he thought he was the person to package the strips of duct tape that were around Swanson’s hands, midsection and head; he also remembered processing them for fingerprints. However, there was testimony from an FBI agent during the trial that she was the one to package the strips.

The final stipulation was that Steve Shaw, a trace evidence technician with the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., viewed slides of the tape and found carpet fibers, other textiles and dog hair.

After the stipulations were read, the People rested.

For his first witness, Schlueter called Carol Simonson, mother of previous witness Jenna Weller.

Simonson recalled from her calendar that her daughter moved out of their house on Sept. 15, 2010. She was “not positive” to where, but believed it to be the house of Weller’s friend Jana Stark’s aunt’s house. Weller was there for a few weeks before moving out. Weller’s parents had asked Weller to move out after she would leave her children there but disappear for a night at a time. Weller was also not going to school. Weller’s relationship with her parents was strained at the time.

Next, Richard Ficklin, older brother of previous witnesses Ron and Don, was called. Richard was not living with his brothers and grandparents in 1980 as he was 25 and married. He did, however, work with Don at the South Y Shell gas station where the murder occurred. He worked the graveyard shift, after his brother’s swing shift.

He recalled that his brother worked on a car, a Ram Charger, that his brother had owned at the time. He was occasionally helped by Sanford. Richard knew Sanford from when Don and Sanford hung out. “Once in a great while” Richard would hang out with them.

When the Ram Charger was broken — Richard remembered the transmission was destroyed while four-wheeling — Sanford helped Don fix the car, as well as change the shift column. Don would work on his car at the gas station, often alone, but a couple of times with Sanford’s help, Richard recalled.

A few weeks before Swanson’s death, Richard quit his job at the gas station. Swanson filled the position. A day or so before the murder, Richard recalled a truck being stolen from his grandfather’s repossession yard.

Richard was then excused.

During Richard Ficklin’s testimony, and the testimony for the rest of the day, Sanford seemed to pay close attention to the witnesses. During the prosecution’s argument, he rarely looked up, focusing on legal documents and taking notes. Instead, he stared at the witnesses unless it was during a sidebar or short break.

Nathalie Lebourveau, a former roommate of Sanford, met the defendant through a Craigslist ad at the end of summer in 2010. The ad was a room for rent, and for help driving cars to the home as Sanford listed himself a car specialist who worked on the cars at home.

After an initial meeting, a month went by. Sanford called Lebourveau and asked if she still needed a place to stay. She moved in during September, but shortly after, in October, moved out. She told Weller, her good friend of seven years, of the place to stay. Lebourveau moved as she was hired for a new job that provided housing.

Despite Weller’s testimony, Lebourveau said Weller never mentioned a conversation between Weller and Sanford regarding Sanford possibly being a killer.

Under questioning from Kelliher, Lebourveau said she moved out because she “didn’t feel right” but the job “had something to do with it.” When asked again if there was another reason, she began crying and had to pause before asking the judge if she had to answer. The judge said she did, and she replied, “He just made me feel uncomfortable.” A moment later, she burst out, “He was touching me, I don’t know.” When Kelliher asked if Lebourveau had woken up to find Sanford touching her, she said yes. She stayed away from the home until she moved out. She did not tell Weller, especially since Weller needed a temporary solution for a place to stay. “And it was, you know, a place she could go.”

On Thanksgiving of that year, Weller had to pick up things from the house, where she was now staying. Lebourveau accompanied her into the garage. Sanford eventually came out and “Words were exchanged.”

Lebourveau confirmed that she was laughing at the time because Weller was “entitled to keep her own company,” especially as she was paying most of the rent. She told Sanford if he didn’t want to see her, he could go in the house; but he could not make her leave. She said, after questioned by Kelliher, that she did not remember telling Moschini in a prior interview that she was “testing (Sanford’s) manhood.” She did say that he was crying at the time. Weller did not do any of the talking.

The jury was then let out for lunch. After lunch, former Sacramento County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Biondi testified in a hearing out of the jury. He testified that, in his opinion, the 1980 investigation of the crime scene was shoddy and could have been greatly improved. The judge, however, could find no legal reason why the testimony should have been included in the trial, and excluded Biondi as a witness for the jury.

With Biondi’s testimony over, the jury was brought back in and told a final stipulation — that Sanford had pleaded guilty to the a car theft from 1980 on Nov. 24, 1982. The defense then rested without Sanford taking the stand. No rebuttal by the prosecution was given. Wednesday would be used for details concerning the jury instruction. Thursday was scheduled for closing arguments and instructing the jury before deliberation.





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