SPOKANE — The judge presiding over the retrial of a 1986 cold case killing will allow DNA evidence and did not close the door to the defense’s contention of another suspect.
Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jeremy Schmidt will hear testimony, review evidence and issue a verdict in the murder case against 57-year-old Richard Aguirre, who waived his right to a jury trial late last month.
Aguirre is accused of strangling 27-year-old Ruby Doss near Playfair Race Course on Jan. 20, 1986. Doss, who worked as a prostitute, lived in the El Rancho Motel with her daughter and boyfriend.
Police investigators had few suspects in her killing until 2015, when a DNA profile from a condom found at the scene and later entered into a federal DNA database matched Aguirre, who by then had become a police officer in Pasco. Aguirre has since resigned from the force.
He was tried for Doss’ killing in 2021 but the jury could not reach a verdict.
The lack of a jury is not the only difference in his upcoming trial.
Schmidt ruled, as in the previous case, that DNA evidence linking Aguirre to the scene is admissible, despite the defense’s protests over how that evidence was handled over the years and the possibility of contamination. Those issues are expected to be argued during the trial.
The defense argued that the condom was found away from Doss’ body while prosecutors said the condom was found between an area where a struggle occurred and clothes matching what Doss was last seen wearing were found, and her body.
Schmidt agreed with prosecutors and ruled in their favor, but noted that the significance of the DNA evidence will be based on what is presented during trial.
Prosecutors hoped to prevent the defense from raising the possibility of an alternative suspect, arguing Aguirre planned to present “rumors” through testimony from officers about statements made by people they interviewed, not by the people themselves.
Aguirre’s attorney, Karen Lindholdt, said there are clear statements that a pimp and another prostitute had an issue with Doss and motive to kill her.
She also argued that the unmatched DNA profile found on Doss’ blouse points to another suspect.
“This is a classic example of an alternative suspect,” Lindholdt said.
Prosecutor Richard Whaley countered “this seems like a classic example of speculation and rumor.”
Whaley noted the people who pointed a finger at the pimp are not set to testify.
Schmidt said Lindholdt offered enough proof to show the evidence was relevant and should not be generally limited from being offered, but would be subject to appropriate objections, such as hearsay.
Aguirre had denied being in the United States when Doss was killed, arguing he was deployed to South Korea. He now admits he was in Spokane at the time, shifting his central defense from an alibi to offering an alternative suspect.
Though Aguirre is charged with first-degree murder, the judge could instead convict him of second-degree murder.
He faces up to life in prison.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday.