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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Medical Examiner: Cold case evidence shows Ruby Doss was strangled and had multiple brain injuries

Richard Aguirre, center, with his attorney Karen Lindholdt, right, and investigator Taylor Winthrop, awaits his second trail Nov. 29, in the Spokane County Courthouse. Aguirre was charged with first-degree murder for the death of 27-year-old Ruby Doss. Her body was found near the old Playfair Race Course in Spokane in 1986. Aguirre stood trial for the murder in 2021, but a mistrial was declared after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Ruby Doss died from being strangled and hit on the head multiple times in January of 1986 , Spokane County’s medical examiner testified Tuesday.

Recounting how Doss was killed opened the second week of former Pasco police officer Richard Aguirre’s murder trial. Retired police officers testified about how DNA evidence was handled, and a clerk at an adult book store testified about seeing Doss, who worked as a prostitute, the night of her death.

Doss was 27 when she was found dead in a commercial area off Sprague Avenue not long after she was killed. Her death went unsolved for decades until Aguirre was connected to the case through DNA.

Aguirre, now 59, faces one count of first-degree murder.

Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Veena Singh reviewed Doss’ autopsy because the pathologist who initially conducted the autopsy almost 38 years ago has since died.

Prosecutors showed a series of autopsy photos, with Singh testifying to the injuries shown in the pictures.

Doss had bruising and scrapes to her face. There was dirt and straw on her shirt and in her hair. Her pants were unzipped but remained buttoned.

Doss had been hit on the head at least five times, Singh said, showing bruising on her head and photos of pooled blood in Doss’ brain.

It took “significant force” to cause those injuries. Doss had bruising on her throat. An examination of the tissue in her neck showed a broken hyoid bone, which is a sign of strangulation, Singh said.

“It’s a very well-protected structure,” she said.

It takes significant force to break that bone, she said. Singh found that Doss died from blunt force and asphyxial injuries.

The defense questioned Singh about Doss’ clothing in relation to her injuries. Doss was wearing a red blouse with a pussycat bow at her neck. The bruises on her neck were not visible in the first photos taken of Doss.

In 1986, Eric Cook was a cashier at an adult bookstore near Sprague Avenue. He remembers Doss coming into the store occasionally.

She was shy, Cook said. Doss would come in the back door, buy a condom, then leave, he said.

On the night of her death, Cook told officers Doss came in shortly after he had done inventory, which he always did around 9 p.m.

Retired Spokane Police Lt. James Hill testified that he hand-delivered the evidence package containing the condom found at the scene of Doss’ death to LifeCodes, a lab that conducted DNA testing, in 1989.

Hill didn’t sign the special evidence envelope or look inside it, he said after being questioned by the defense. But the envelope, which was admitted into evidence, did have a matching case and property number to the Doss case.

Retired Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Detective Rick Grabenstein testified about his involvement with the case when it was being investigated by a taskforce looking at homicides in the region.

In 1999, Grabenstein tried to get the condom found at the Doss crime scene out for testing and discovered it had not been returned by LifeCodes, the company that did the initial round of DNA testing. He found that LifeCodes still had the extracted DNA from the condom, however.

Grabenstein received those extracts and then sent them to the Washington State Patrol crime lab for testing. The lab never did the testing however, which Grabenstein believed was due to a case backlog.

Instead, he sent it to another lab where they developed a DNA profile. That profile was then submitted to WSP for entry into a DNA database.

The defense questioned Grabenstein extensively on the transfer of evidence. Grabenstein said he never opened the box sent by LifeCodes and did not see the extracts himself.

Retired Sheriff’s Office Detective Fred Ruetsch testified that he submitted the results from the second lab to WSP for entry into the DNA database. There was no match as of May 2002, he said.

Aguirre’s trial is set to continue through mid-December.