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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former Pasco police officer’s trial for 1986 killing in Spokane set to start Monday

Former Pasco Police Officer Richard J. Aguirre, shown in 2015.  (Tri-City Herald)

The trial of a former Pasco police officer accused of strangling a woman in 1986 is set to start Monday.

Richard J. Aguirre, 57, was charged in September 2020 with the killing of 27-year-old Ruby Doss, who was working as a prostitute at the time of her death.

It’s the second time Aguirre has been charged with the crime. He was first charged in 2015 when a DNA sample Aguirre submitted, while under investigation for a separate rape, matched evidence collected in the Doss case. Aguirre was later acquitted on that rape charge.

At the time Doss was killed, prostitutes in Spokane and Spokane Valley were frequently disappearing off the streets. Investigators initially tried to link her killing on Jan. 3, 1986 to serial killer Robert Yates, who pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in Spokane County from 1975 through 1998.

Doss was found dead near 3118 Ferry Ave. Spokane Police Detective Brian Breen, who investigated the crime scene, found where it appeared Doss had sex with someone behind the old Playfair Race Course, near a manure pit.

The detective found shoe-heel impressions that indicated Doss ran more than 250 feet before her attacker struck her in the back of the head with a blunt instrument and strangled Doss, Breen wrote in court records.

Another detective, Nicolas Stanley, found a used condom near where investigators believe the sexual interaction occurred. However, at that time DNA testing was rudimentary.

The case remained open for decades.

Then in 2001, Detective Rick Grabenstein submitted the condom for testing and the results were uploaded into a national DNA database.

On the 29th anniversary of Doss’ death on Jan. 30, 2015, the profile came back as a match to Aguirre.

At that time Aguirre was on administrative leave from the Pasco Police Department, where he had worked for nearly three decades, after he was accused of raping his then 30-year-old niece in Franklin County. He later resigned from the police department.

Aguirre lived in Spokane with his then-wife and was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in the 1980s.

After his arrest for the killing, Aguirre told his sisters he had an encounter with “a girl,” according to a Spokesman-Review story at the time. That they met at a dance place then went to an industrial area and had sex but he wasn’t sure if the “girl” was Doss.

A lifelong friend, who grew up with Aguirre, told a detective she and Aguirre would go to taverns and strip joints on East Sprague Avenue in 1986 and 1987 and at least one time they contacted or solicited prostitutes, according to court documents cited in a 2015 article.

During the investigation into the alleged rape, investigators discovered about 76,000 pictures and 315 videos on one of Aguirre’s cellphones. Many of those files showed sex acts with men and women, according to court documents.

Some of the people in the videos appear to be experiencing “pain and fear,” and did not seem to be aware they were being recorded, court documents say.

Aguirre was charged with voyeurism based on an incident where he filmed himself with a man at a Spokane Valley Hotel in 2015 but that charge was later dismissed. The man told investigators he had not consented to be filmed during sex.

Shortly after the dismissal of the voyeurism charge, Aguirre was acquitted during his second trial on the rape charge in March 2017. The jury could not reach a verdict at the first trial.

Aguirre’s attorney, Seattle-based John Henry Browne, known for defending controversial high-profile clients like serial killer Ted Bundy, unsuccessfully motioned to dismiss the murder charge, arguing military records showed Aguirre was in South Korea at the time of Doss death.

Prosecutors showed military records only reflected a reporting period and did not show when Aguirre left Fairchild Air Force Base.

The same argument came up again in recent court filings ahead of the upcoming trial.

Browne also sought dismissal because investigators lost the condom found at the scene during the investigation, which prevented the defense from doing their own testing.

Investigators dismissed the charges in December 2017, to await further DNA testing.

The first-degree murder charge was refiled in Sept. 2020 after prosecutors said they found Aguirre’s DNA on the envelop that held the condom. Both times, Aguirre pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Aguirre’s trial is scheduled to start Monday and continue through Dec. 16 in front of Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno.

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