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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Friend testifies Aguirre said he knew Doss but denied killing her in third day of former Pasco officer’s murder trial

Former Pasco police Officer Richard Aguirre, left, and his attorney, John Browne, are shown in court during his trial Tuesday afternoon at the Spokane County Courthouse. Aguirre is accused of killing Ruby Doss, a woman who was found dead near Playfair Race Track in the 1980s.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The former Pasco police officer on trial for the 1986 killing of Ruby Doss told a friend and former co-worker that he had sex with Doss but didn’t kill her, the friend testified in court Wednesday.

In the third day of 57-year-old Richard J. Aguirre’s trial, current and former Pasco police officers testified to statements Aguirre made about Doss.

Doss, 27, was beaten and strangled near Playfair Race Course on Jan. 30, 1986. Doss was a prostitute living in the El Rancho Motel with her young daughter and boyfriend.

DNA evidence linked Aguirre to the killing in 2014, and he was charged with murder the next year. Those charges were dropped while investigators waited for more DNA testing, according to court records. Prosecutors refiled charges last year.

Former Pasco police officer Ryan Flanigan testified Wednesday that he had been a co-worker and friend to Aguirre for about 10 years.

When Aguirre became a suspect in 2015, he told Flanigan he knew Doss but didn’t kill her, Flanigan said.

“His words were, ‘I had sex with her, but I didn’t kill (her) ,’ ” Flanigan said.

Pasco police Sgt. Brian Vaught testified, in uniform, that Aguirre made similar statements to him in 2015.

Vaught and Aguirre met in 2005 as co-workers and then became friends, Vaught said.

In 2015, Aguirre was moving and Vaught loaned him his truck to help out, he said. It was also around that time that the DNA match linked Aguirre to the crime.

Aguirre told Vaught at the time that he was a suspect in Doss’ killing and “that he maybe knew a gal by that name” when he was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Vaught said Aguirre called Doss a “woman of the night,” and said that Doss was “alive when I left.” The DNA match was from a condom, Vaught said he assumed, because Aguirre said something akin to always wearing a condom.

After opening statements Tuesday, multiple former Spokane police officers testified about how they found Doss’ body wedged between cement platforms in an industrial area near East Sprague Avenue, and how a short distance away they found her coat, a knife and other personal items hidden. Investigators also found a used condom nearby.

The current lead detective on the case, Kip Hollenbeck, testified he first became involved in the Doss case in 2008 when he got a grant from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to run private DNA tests on cold case evidence.

Hollenbeck submitted numerous items found at the crime scenes in the Doss case to Orchid Cellmark Lab for testing, including a piece of wood found near her body, a wig, multiple coats, a steak knife, the clothing Doss was wearing when she was found and samples from her body, including blood and urine, along with a hair found on the condom.

Those items were submitted in 2008, but the results from the testing didn’t further the investigation, Hollenbeck said.

Then in 2014, there was a CODIS hit matching Aguirre to the DNA from the condom.

Hollenbeck went with a team of detectives to Aguirre’s home in Pasco on April 17, 2015, to collect swabs of his mouth for DNA testing.

The detective said he asked Aguirre if he had been married. Aguirre said he was married in 1986 while he was in the Air Force to a woman who was also in the Air Force.

The couple got married in November 1985 at the Hitching Post in Coeur d’Alene, Hollenbeck said.

Aguirre said he was upset that the Air Force was deploying him to Korea and his wife wouldn’t be going with him.

Hollenbeck testified that Aguirre said he was deployed in February 1986. The detective also got Aguirre’s Air Force records, which were discussed in court first by defense attorney John Browne.

Browne asked if there was a performance review for Dec. 24, 1985, to Dec. 23, 1986, from Osan Air Base in Korea. Hollenbeck confirmed there was.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stefanie Collins asked Hollenbeck if there was anything in Air Force records that indicated when Aguirre was deployed to Korea. Hollenbeck said no.

Hollenbeck then said the performance evaluations went by year. There were also records that Aguirre went to the dentist at Fairchild Air Force base on Jan. 2, 1986.

Air Force records also show that Aguirre met with a counselor on April 8, 1986, Hollenbeck said. He said the counselor indicated in her report that Aguirre told her he arrived in Korea on Feb. 21, 1986.

Browne asked Hollenbeck if any of Aguirre’s DNA was found on Doss, to which the detective said, “No.” But when he was questioned on the topic by Collins, Hollenbeck said the majority of the items sent to Orchid Cellmark were unsuitable for DNA profiles and that only the semen that matched Aguirre and a profile for Doss were developed by the lab.

The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Playfair Race Course