Police say DNA evidence collected from the scene of a 1986 slaying of a Spokane woman matches a former Pasco cop.
Richard J. Aguirre, 50, was named publicly Thursday as a suspect in the cold case after he submitted a DNA sample as part of a rape investigation in Pasco.
A computer program linked his DNA to the death of Ruby J. Doss, 27, a prostitute who was found strangled in Spokane.
“There was a possibility the two had come in contact with each other,” said Aguirre’s attorney, Scott Johnson, who would not talk about how Aguirre and Doss may have met. “The fact his DNA may have been there does not come as a surprise.”
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However, he said, Aguirre adamantly denies killing Doss. Aguirre lived in Spokane while stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base during the time Doss was killed.
Spokane police said Thursday that they are investigating whether Aguirre is linked to other, similar unsolved murders. Aguirre is not charged in the Doss case.
Aguirre resigned last week amid the rape investigation after a 27-year career with the Pasco Police Department. The former Officer of the Year in Pasco had been on paid leave since November, when the rape allegations surfaced.
On Thursday, shortly after Spokane police named Aguirre as a homicide suspect, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant filed third-degree rape charges.
Sant’s office released few details about the case, other than the incident reportedly happened Nov. 15, court records show. Aguirre is scheduled to appear in Franklin County Superior Court on May 5. He is out of jail on his own recognizance.
As part of the rape investigation, authorities entered Aguirre’s DNA into a national database called CODIS, which already had a DNA profile taken from the scene of Doss’ murder more than 25 years ago. The information was entered in the system in 2002.
When authorities told Spokane police about the match within the last month, they searched Aguirre’s Pasco home in mid-April and seized several items, police and Johnson confirmed. Investigators briefly spoke with Aguirre at the time.
Spokane officials called a news conference Thursday to announce the DNA evidence and ask anyone who may been assaulted by Aguirre to come forward.
Between 1986 and 1987 there were a series of homicides in the Spokane area in which women were strangled. Police eventually solved two of the strangulations years later through DNA evidence. Juries convicted Gary L. Trimble and Robert D. Clark of those crimes.
Authorities looked at the men as possible suspects in three other cases, including Doss’ death, that remain unsolved.
The Spokesman-Review reported Mary Ann Turner, 30, a prostitute, was killed nearly 11 months after Doss died and a former topless dancer, Kathleen Dehart, 37, was strangled in July 1987.
“We are submitting and resubmitting evidence collected both during that time for Ms. Doss’ case and other ones to see if there is a connection,” Spokane police Lt. Steve Wolfe said at the news conference. He said they had contacted some of Doss’ relatives who do not live in Spokane, and they expressed gratitude that officers continue to work on the case.
Doss, who went by the street name “Memphis,” moved to Spokane from Detroit, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Aguirre’s attorney told the Herald that his client left Spokane sometime in 1987, possibly early in the year. Pasco hired him as a patrolman in 1988.
Johnson blasted Spokane police, saying it’s “shameful” for the department to try to tie Aguirre to a murder without charges being filed.
Johnson said he has not been told if police have any evidence against Aguirre other than the DNA link.
“They keep naming suspects and saying this is the guy who did it,” he said. “It’s a credibility problem. It’s especially bad to issue a press release and just say this person is a suspect without charges being filed. It’s ridiculous.”
The notion that Aguirre is somehow connected to the series of strangulations is simply untrue, Johnson said.
The Spokesman-Review reported in 1996 that a Spokane County assistant public defender who committed suicide in 1987 also was once the prime suspect in the Doss case.
Aguirre plans to fight the accusations against him. He will turn himself in to Spokane authorities if charges are filed, Johnson said.
Although Aguirre will work to clear his name, Johnson said being accused of murder is something that will follow the once-respected cop for a lifetime.
“He never will be able to repair his reputation no matter what the outcome is,” he said.
Aguirre served mostly as a patrolman throughout his career with the Pasco department, working a short stint as a detective and with a four-person gang unit, said Pasco Capt. Ken Roske.
There were never major disciplinary issues with Aguirre and only minor complaints before the sexual assault allegation, police officials said. The department said it does not have a single complaint against Aguirre on record in the last decade.
Aguirre was named Officer of the Year in 2002 for his hard work, actions and dedication to duty, according to Herald archives. He received a service award, which was the department’s second-highest honor, for his response in a murder-suicide case, and he was recognized by the chief for helping save a man’s life who stopped breathing after choking.
Chief Bob Metzger said the officer that many in the department respected and others in the community praised is far different from the person who would strangle a young woman.
Metzger spoke to officers Thursday after news of the investigation broke, saying everyone is shocked and saddened to think Aguirre could possibly be connected to the murder.
“I think everybody is numb,” the chief said. “I don’t think they know what to do. We have been through a lot in the last few months.”
After learning about the investigation, Pasco police looked back into unsolved homicide cases to see if there were any connections to Aguirre and found nothing improper, Roske said.
Pasco police have been in contact with Spokane authorities and will help the department with the investigation any way they can, Roske said.
“If these allegations are true, we absolutely feel betrayed. We are hurt by it. We quite frankly are angry,” Roske said. “If they are true, we are going to do everything we can to ensure this suspect is held accountable.”
Anyone with information about the Doss homicide or Aguirre is asked to contact Spokane police detectives at 509-622-5849.