Shoeprints left near where Ruby Doss’ body was found strangled in January of 1986 were the focus of testimony Friday in the bench trial of Richard Aguirre.
Law enforcement officers and a forensic employee testified about the investigation into 27-year-old Doss’ death in the second day of testimony before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jeremy Schmidt.
This is 59-year-old Aguirre’s second trial in the case. The first trial ended in a hung jury in 2021. This trial is markedly different, not just because Schmidt will decide the case after Aguirre waived his right to a jury, but because attorneys are focusing on different issues.
Kerrie Christen, who documented the crime scene for investigators in her role at the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, testified about taking video and still photographs both the night Doss’ body was discovered and the next morning.
She was questioned extensively regarding photographs of shoeprints found near Doss’ body.
Aguirre’s attorney, Karen Lindholdt, contends her client’s bare foot is larger than the shoeprints.
Christen said in 1986 they used a fixed-head tripod to point a camera down at the print, and attempted to lay a ruler on the same plane as the print.
That wasn’t always possible if the shoeprint was at an angle or uneven, she said. They used a wooden ruler from a school supply store, she said.
Lindholdt questioned her about whether she documented the actual measurements of the prints. Christen said she did not, she only photographed the prints with the ruler in the frame.
Not all shoeprints have the same evidentiary value, Christen said. Some prints are more clear and even, while others can end up degraded or not fully capture the shoe.
On one photo of a shoeprint in particular, Christen said the heel left a deeper impression than the toe. The print was also at an angle.
“It kind of documents the shoe impression, but you wouldn’t be able to enlarge it to the actual size because the ruler is not on the same plane as the shoe impression,” Christen said.
The result is that an accurate measurement would be hard to obtain solely from the photo, she said. Christen’s role was to document and evaluate evidence, not analyze it, she affirmed to prosecutors.
The amount of testimony over the shoeprints is a departure from Aguirre’s first trial, where Christen did not testify, and the shoeprints were only mentioned briefly.
Now-retired detectives James Lundgren and Nicolas Stanley also testified about their involvement in the investigation.
Lundgren interviewed Robert Lee, who the defense is pointing to as an alternative suspect in Doss’ killing. His interview with Lee, which occurred about two months after Doss’ death while Lee was jailed on an unrelated charge, was not recorded, Lindholt pointed out.
Investigators did not measure Lee’s feet, collect his shoes or get a blood sample, Lundgren acknowledged.
“Robert Lee’s name came up in the case as possibly having a motive for doing it, but I am not aware of any evidence that pointed to him being the person who committed the crime,” Lundgren said.
Stanley was called to the scene where Doss was found shortly before midnight, he testified. Due to darkness, investigators paused until the sun rose.
That next morning, Stanley was the one who discovered a nearby pit full of manure and hay with items belonging to Doss strewn throughout.
A vehicle could pull down in the trench to be loaded with straw, Stanley explained. Tire tracks led into the area where there was an earing, $50, a coat and wig, and a steak knife.
All of the items matched with what Doss’ boyfriend told investigators she had worn and taken with her earlier that night, Stanley said.
From the pit, it was “probably a minute if that” to walk to the area where Doss’ body was discovered.
He pointed out the areas on aerial photographs of the scene and diagrams he drew at the time. The aerial photographs were not shown at the first trial.
Stanley also found a condom near the tire tracks, apparently tossed over the retaining wall.
The condom appeared to be “fresh,” with no dirt on it and a large amount of semen visible inside, Stanley said.
“It looked like somebody had just taken the condom off and put it there,” Stanley said.
In response to defense questions, Stanley said he had no formal training to identify the condom as recently disposed of but used “common sense.”
Stanley was questioned by Lindholdt about whether the area where the condom was found was inside the initial crime scene tape. Stanley said the area was secured by officers, but he was unsure of the boundaries of the crime scene tape.
Following Stanley’s testimony, the trial adjourned for the week. Extensive testimony on the DNA evidence in the case is expected in the coming weeks, with testimony set to resume Tuesday morning at 9 .