No testimony from Aguirre as both sides stop business in the murder trial of a former officer; store clerk, suspect’s sister takes a stand
The former Pasco police officer charged with murder in 1986 did not testify at his trial as the defense and prosecution concluded their business on Tuesday.
Richard Aguirre, 57, is charged with the murder of Ruby Doss, 27, who was found beaten and strangled near Playfair Racecourse on January 30, 1986. Doss was a sex worker, living in the El Rancho Motel with her daughter and her boyfriend at the time of her death.
DNA evidence linked Aguirre to Doss’ murder in 2015, and he was charged with murder later that year. Those charges were dropped as investigators awaited further DNA testing, court records show. Prosecutors filed charges last year.
Assistant Prosecutor Stefanie Collins’ first witness on Tuesday was Lorraine Heath, a DNA expert who testified both on the history of DNA testing and her work at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for the case. Other witnesses called on Tuesday included Aguirre’s sister and the store clerk who said they saw Doss on the last day of his life.
Here is a look at what happened on the last day of testimony at Aguirre’s trial.
A scientist details his journey to develop the DNA profile of the case
In January 2015, a forensic finding in the national CODIS database matched two different crime scene profiles, one from semen found in a condom used at the time of Doss’ death and the other from ‘a crime scene Heath did not explain to the jury.
The sample comes from a 2015 rape investigation for which Aguirre was acquitted by a jury.
Within a month of the match, Spokane Police Detective Kip Hollenbeck sent a number of items to the crime lab for further testing.
Heath carried out these tests and created a report in July of the same year.
The DNA profile developed from the semen found in the condom on site definitely matched Aguirre, Heath said.
Several other DNA profiles were found on objects at the scene, such as one of Doss’s coats, but none of those profiles matched Aguirre or anyone else, Heath said. Some of the samples had multiple contributors, Heath said.
She also testified about the envelope that contained the condom which another DNA technician said last week was “consumed” as part of his testing in the 1990s.
Heath swabbed the envelope to see if any DNA from the outside of the condom had transferred to the envelope. She found DNA and was able to develop two profiles, one for sperm and one for non-sperm, Heath said. The sperm matched Aguirre, said Heath.
The non-sperm sample was a mix of DNA from two individuals, but in 2017 there wasn’t enough for a good comparison, Heath said. In 2018, a special type of genotyping became available that uses a statistical and mathematical algorithm to help compare the DNA profile.
Heath found that the non-sperm sample is 8,100 times more likely to be a combination of DNA from Doss and Aguirre than a combination of Aguirre and DNA from another person.
Aguirre’s defense attorney John Browne cross-examined Heath. Heath explained that a reagent blank is a vial of chemicals used in a DNA testing process that can be tested to determine if the chemicals are contaminated.
Creating and maintaining a reagent blank is now part of standard protocol, but in the early 2000s, when some of the DNA testing was done, that wasn’t the case, Heath said.
In this case, no reagent blank was sent with the extracts of the condom. When asked by Collins if there was any indication that the evidence was compromised, Heath replied “absolutely not”.
Store employee, Aguirre’s sister speaks
Prosecutors then called Eric Cook, the clerk of a store that sold pornography and condoms in the 1980s near the crime scene. Cook said he saw Doss the night she died and that she bought a condom from his store.
The prosecution concluded its evidence after Cook testified.
The defense called Lisa DeRuyter, Aguirre’s older sister, as their first witness.
DeRuyter testified that his eldest son was born on January 1, 1986, which makes this year’s holiday celebrations memorable. She remembers the family reuniting early for Christmas due to Aguirre’s upcoming deployment to Korea. She then said that Aguirre was deployed on December 23, 1986, based on the records she requested from the Air Force, but not on her own memory at the time.
Prosecutors asked DeRuyter if Aguirre was cleared to deploy on that date or actually deployed. DeRuyter said she was unsure and was unaware of military procedure.
Cleared can mean different things to different people, she said.
Detective testifies on condom, footprints
Browne then called Detective Hollenbeck back to the stand. He said he sent 59 pieces of evidence to the crime lab and that Aguirre’s DNA was only found on the condom and the envelope in which the condom was placed.
He was also questioned about photos of shoe prints at the scene, which measured around 10.5 to 11 inches.
Hollenbeck said he sent the images to the FBI for improvement but, due to the softness of the ground, they could not determine the size or the make of the shoe, he said after a question of prosecutors.
Browne then asked when Hollenbeck found out that the condom was missing. Hollenbeck said he discovered the condom had been consumed during testing when he first became involved in the case, but previous detectives in the case were immediately aware of it.
When asked if the condom was found more than 250 feet from where Doss’s body was found, Hollenbeck said yes. Next, prosecutors asked if the condom was found near the area of ââstraw where Doss’s belongings were found, and Hollenbeck estimated that the condom was found 5 to 8 feet from that area.
He explained that the location of the condom was consistent with the fact that it was thrown out of the passenger side window of a car parked in the straw area.
Pleadings are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning.