’80 murder, robbery case reopened
Nevada Appeal News Service
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – Ron and Sharon Swanson finally have reason to hope.
It’s been almost three decades since their son, Richard, was murdered on Aug. 13, 1980, during a gas station robbery at the now-defunct Shell station at the “Y.” Richard, the 17-year-old clerk who favored the mountains and motorcycles, suffocated on a duct tape gag.
After the Swansons pleaded their case before the South Lake Tahoe City Council in January, the cold case surrounding their son’s death received a new look. One veteran police officer is warming it up.
Chuck Owens, a police detective assigned to the FBI office, is focusing solely on resolving the case.
“We’re starting from square one,” he said. “We’re starting over basically.”
It’s a difficult task. Accounts can vary hours, even minutes after witnesses see a car crash or crime. When you’re dealing with questions that are 27 years old, answers are a bit tougher to come by as memory fades, past investigators have died, and other difficulties arise.
Surprisingly, Owens said he has already accumulated new, and more important, useful information.
He is preparing to send evidence to FBI labs at the federal academy at Quantico, Va.
Owens is also preparing to take a road trip to three states where those with perhaps pertinent information will be interviewed.
“We’re going to follow every clue there is,” Owens said.
Earlier this month Ron and Sharon, a retired couple living in Sonora, Calif., visited Happy Homestead Cemetery where Richard has a plot.
Two sets of fresh flowers were placed at his headstone, which is decorated with etchings of mountains under a partial cloudy sky, a motorcycle and a truck.
“Just an all-around kid,” said Ron.
The parents, who said they have plots reserved next to Richard’s, stood with Owens at the cemetery. The Swansons hope they receive answers.
“The police department has just been phenomenal,” Ron said.
Four months ago such kind words wouldn’t have passed Ron’s lips. Disgusted with a lack of progress in the case and certain the suspect can be found (the Swansons even had a name but refused to utter it), the two drove from Sonora to attend the city council meeting to share their pain.
“For the past 26 years, we have waited for a proper and thorough investigation into the robberies and murder of our son,” Ron Swanson said at the time. “There is evidence, and there is a suspect. Nothing is being done. All we receive are excuses, lies and empty promises.”
To assist his investigation, Owens had a phone number created specifically to receive information on this case. He’s optimistic there are people who have information surrounding Swanson’s murder.
“Their conscience might decide they have to come forward and get this burden off their chest,” he said.
The phone number is (866) 436-1898, and it goes directly to Owens.
Secret Witness turns 40 this year – and it’s helped solve many of Northern Nevada’s most violent crimes
Secret Witness tips have played a pivotal role in solving some of the most violent crimes the greater Northern Nevada region has seen. To date, Secret Witness has paid out more than $300,000 in rewards to anonymous tipsters. Rewards range from $50 (graffiti/tagging) to $1,500 (armed robbery) to $2,500 (murder).