Shortly after Richard J. Aguirre appeared in court Tuesday in his Franklin County rape case, the former Pasco cop was arrested by Spokane police for the murder of a prostitute in 1986.
The arrest came a month after Aguirre, 51, was named as a suspect in the death of Ruby J. Doss, 27, who was found beaten and strangled in Spokane.
The one time Officer of the Year and 27-year veteran of the force in Pasco has been charged in Spokane County with first-degree murder, prosecutors confirmed. He is held at the Spokane County jail and online records show bail is set at $500,000.
He is expected to make an appearance today in Spokane County Superior Court.
Aguirre has spoken with family members about the murder investigation, strongly denying he is responsible for Doss’ death, said Denise Prior, his sister.
“He has told us that absolutely he did not commit the murder,” Prior said. “That’s what he has told us and he is very adamant about it.”
An affidavit filed Tuesday detailed evidence from the crime scene and revealed a lifelong friend of Aguirre’s told investigators Aguirre once admitted to hitting and choking a woman during the time Doss was killed.
The evidence included a condom containing semen, shoe prints of a size 10 1/2 to 11, a steak knife, tire tracks, a crumpled $50 bill and clothes, court documents said.
Police submitted the condom to a laboratory in 1989 and DNA was extracted from the semen, court documents said. A DNA profile was developed in 2002, submitted to the state crime lab and entered into a national database called CODIS.
Aguirre voluntarily submitted DNA during the recent rape investigation and the sample was entered into CODIS, court documents said. The DNA submitted by Aguirre was then matched to the DNA recovered from the condom.
The DNA sample was also used to connect Aguirre to the Pasco rape case. Court documents show his saliva was found on the woman’s underwear.
During their investigation, police interviewed Lawrence Cole, who grew up with Aguirre in Sunnyside and hung out with him during the time Doss was killed, court documents said. The two men apparently frequented bars and strip clubs and solicited prostitutes at least once in a section of Spokane where Doss was known to hang out.
After a night of drinking, Cole reported that Aguirre said he “hit a woman” and “choked her,” court documents said. And when Aguirre walked away “he thought she was still moving.”
Detectives investigating the case determined it was likely Doss and her killer got into a struggle inside a manure pit after they had sex, court documents said. She ran more than 250 feet before she was hit in the back of the head and forehead with an object.
Doss, who went by the street name “Memphis,” was then strangled and the suspect returned to the pit to hide her fur coat, wig and earrings, court documents said. Police believe the killer then drove off. A fresh set of tire tracks was found heading into the pit and leaving the area.
Aguirre told Prior he met a girl in a Spokane bar and remembered later having sex with her, though he didn’t know if the woman was Doss, court documents said. Aguirre told his sister they had sex in an “industrial place.”
Kennewick attorney Scott Johnson, who is representing Aguirre, says it didn’t come as a shock that his client’s DNA was found at the scene and it’s likely Aguirre had a sexual encounter with Doss.
Johnson expected police to have stronger evidence against Aguirre and plans to attack their case in court, he said.
“The cards are on the table,” Johnson said. “Now we know what their evidence is and I remain confident we will be able to answer their evidence or lack of evidence.”
Pasco Police Chief Bob Metzger declined to comment Tuesday about the arrest of his former officer.
Aguirre was placed on paid administrative leave in November after allegations surfaced that he sexually assaulted an adult woman at his Pasco home after a night of drinking, according to court documents. He has been charged with third-degree rape in the case.
Spokane police zeroed in on Aguirre after receiving notification of the DNA match. They searched his Pasco home in April, seizing several items.
Spokane police called a press conference at the end of April to announce Aguirre was a suspect in the Doss case and to ask anyone who may have been assaulted by him to come forward.
Investigators also revealed they were looking back at similar unsolved homicides in Spokane to see if there is a connection to Aguirre. They plan to test evidence collected from the scenes to see if it implicates him.
Police have investigated whether a series of murders between 1986 and 1987 are connected and looked at several prime suspects over the years, including two men who were eventually convicted of strangling women during that time period.
The cases of Mary Ann Turner, 30, and Kathleen D. DeHart, 37, remain unsolved, according to a story from the Spokesman-Review newspaper. Turner, a prostitute, was found strangled next to a garage in 1986. DeHart, a topless dancer, was strangled in the basement of an apartment in 1987.
Aguirre, who has no criminal history, was stationed in Spokane at Fairchild Air Force Base during the time Doss was killed, Johnson said.
Spokane Detective Kip Hollenbeck determined Aguirre was stationed at the base from January 1984 to early 1988, court documents said. Aguirre was hired as a patrolman in Pasco in 1988.
Doss was killed less than a year before Turner and police were investigating a Spokane County assistant public defender as the main suspect in the case, the Spokesman-Review reported in 1996. However, the man killed himself in 1989.
Prior told the Herald police are trying to pin the murder on her brother after not being able to solve the case for decades.
“We are shocked it has reached this point, especially based on all the other prime suspects that (detectives) have identified,” she said. “(Police) were adamant they were the ones. It’s just moving on to Rich. It’s surprising that there can be so many prime suspects in one murder.”