Jurors fail to reach verdict in cold case murder trial in Spokane of former Pasco police officer Richard Aguirre
Dec. 9, 2021 Updated Thu., Dec. 9, 2021 at 9:33 p.m.
Former Pasco police officer Richard Aguirre hides his face as he leaves Spokane County Superior Court with lawyer John Browne on Thursday. The jury in Aguirre’s first-degree murder case was unable to come to a verdict, triggering a mistrial. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Jurors failed to reach a verdict in the cold case murder trial of Richard Aguirre, a former Pasco police officer accused of killing Ruby Doss in 1986.
The hung jury led Spokane County Superior Judge Maryann Moreno to declare a mistrial Wednesday.
Aguirre, 57, did not testify during his seven-day trial. He left the courthouse immediately following the proceedings with his fiancé. He declined to speak with the media.
He was disappointed not to be acquitted, said Aguirre’s attorney, John Browne.
“I always love it when my clients go home,” Browne said.
A new trial is set to start March 7 with a new jury.
“We’re looking forward to the next trial date in March,” said Stefanie Collins, deputy prosecuting attorney.
Doss, 27, was found beaten and strangled near Playfair Race Course on Jan. 30, 1986. She worked as a prostitute and lived in the El Rancho Motel with her daughter and boyfriend.
DNA evidence linked Aguirre to her killing in 2015, and prosecutors charged him later that year. Those charges were dropped while investigators waited for more DNA testing, according to court records. Prosecutors refiled charges last year.
This isn’t the first time Aguirre has faced a mistrial. In 2016, a jury couldn’t reach a verdict in a rape and assault case against him that led to his DNA being linked to the Doss case. He was later acquitted of the charges.
Multiple forensic scientists, along with a DNA expert, testified to the DNA evidence in the case and how the evolution of DNA science affected it.
A condom found near the scene had semen in it that matched Aguirre, said Lorraine Heath, a DNA testing expert who worked on the case. That condom was destroyed during testing in the late 1980s and therefore wasn’t available for further testing to determine if Doss’ DNA was also present.
After Aguirre’s DNA was matched to the case, Heath did further testing on other items found at the crime scene. She found multiple other DNA profiles but none matching Aguirre, a fact defense attorney Browne said shows Aguirre didn’t kill Doss.
At that time, Heath swabbed the inside of the envelope that had contained the condom from the scene to see if she could develop a DNA profile. She was able to find DNA and develop two profiles, one for the sperm cells and another for the non-sperm cells. But in 2017, there wasn’t enough of the non-sperm sample for comparison.
Then in 2018, due to advances in a special type of genotyping that uses a statistics and mathematical algorithm to help compare the DNA profile, Heath was able to get a probability that the sample was a mixture of Doss and Aguirre’s DNA.
Heath found that the non-sperm sample is 8,100 times more likely to be a combination of Doss and Aguirre’s DNA than a combination of Aguirre and another person’s DNA.
Several witnesses, including Aguirre’s former co-workers at the Pasco Police Department, testified Aguirre made statements to them about having sex with Doss but her being alive when he left
Aguirre faced up to life in prison if convicted.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.