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Forsberg Murder Trial: Both Sides Rest

Prosecution ends on an emotional note: Richard Forsberg allegedly killed his wife on 42nd anniversary of their first date, which they celebrated annually. Closing arguments are Wednesday in trial of Rancho Santa Margarita man.

Jurors in the Richard Forsberg murder trial heard evidence Tuesday that showed just how little of Marcia Forsberg remained following her alleged murder in 2010.

Ebrahim Baytieh, the senior deputy district attorney, ended the state’s case against Forsberg in the afternoon, and defense attorney Calvin Schneider III didn’t call any witnesses to Judge William Froeberg’s courtroom at Orange County Superior Court.

Both sides are expected to give closing arguments on Wednesday.

The prosecution alleges that on Feb. 9, 2010, Forsberg struck his wife of 39 years in the head several times with a nightstand figurine after she turned away from him while she lay in bed and he stood at her side. Forsberg confessed to the crime and said he dismembered his wife, stashed body parts in a freezer and burned the remains at Lake Piru in Ventura County.

The Rancho Santa Margarita man's plan was uncovered only after friends filed a missing persons report in August, 2010, after listening to Forsberg tell them for months Marcia had gone to Arizona to work through some marital discord. Her lack of contact with them for such a long time was unusual.

The final piece of evidence for the prosecution was a stipulation—an agreement by both sides—that Feb. 9, 2010, was the 42nd anniversary of “Rick” and Marcia Ann’s first date, and throughout their marriage they had celebrated the anniversary.

Marcia was 60 at the time of her death.

The defense presented two stipulations that eliminated the need for witnesses on its behalf, that Forsberg entered Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs on Aug. 27, 2010, with extreme lethargy from a suicide attempt via drug overdose, and that upon his discharge on Aug. 30 that his condition had improved.

Jurors finished watching a video of Forsberg’s confession to investigator Steve Swiderski after he was taken into custody by Orange County Sheriff's Department. When court ended Monday, the seven men and five women were about to see Forsberg call his parents and tell them what happened. Tuesday morning, they saw that conversation. His parents had received a letter from Forsberg that he sent prior to his suicide attempt in which he explained what he had done and that he was about to take his life.

“I’m just going to take my lumps and go through with whatever comes up,” he told his father, later adding, “I’m not going to try to play legal games here.”

  • Day 1: Forsberg Trial Begins Today
  • Day 1: 'What He Left Of Her Was ... Nothing!'
  • Day 1:
  • Day 2: 'What Do You Do With A Dead Body?'
  • Day 3: 'Everything Else Was Incidental'

He said he felt numb from what he had done, and was still groggy and woozy “but spent a couple hours with detectives and outlined everything that transpired.”

“I have absolutely no idea why, like a light switched off in my head from light to dark, and then two minutes later—‘What have I done?’ “ he explained into the phone. “And I started a long series of lies to hide what I had done.

Afterward, he told Swiderski, “That went better than I thought.”

He also called the chancellor at Coast Community College where Forsberg was an administrator, his job title application development manager. Forsberg left a message: “This is Rick Forsberg. I’m at Orange County Jail. I’ve been arrested and probably will not be back at work for a long time, if at all. Please pass this on to Human Resources. ...”

On the stand during the trial's fourth day were Michael Thompson, who coordinated parts of the OCSD’s investigation and assisted in the questioning of Forsberg during his confession; and Jeanne Putinier, a forensic scientist with the county crime lab who collected and analyzed DNA samples in the case.

Traces of DNA found inside one of the freezers Forsberg said he used to store his wife’s body was a mixture of three people with the major contributor being female, Putinier said. The freezer had been donated to charity within days of being purchased, and had been used by a men’s group home to store meat.

There was no primary DNA sample obtained for Marcia Forsberg, only a secondary source such as that left from what is believed to be her black hat found in a closet in the Forsberg residence on Cascada. If the DNA from the hat is hers, then part of a DNA swab taken from the seams of the freezer lining represent a 1 in 200,000,000 chance that it belonged to someone other than Marcia.

The defense elicited that there was no hemoglobin found in the Forsberg's home or garage—apart from a drop of Richard Forsberg’s blood on a golf shoe—and there are many cleaning agents that could have produced various false positives in testing. There were a couple of places inside the master bedroom and bath that appeared to be have the presence of blood under forensic examination of the premises but there was either no hemoglobin present or the sample was insufficient under laboratory examination.

Forsberg provided details about the Lake Piru campsites he used to burn the remains that were substantiated with campground records. Thompson revealed that despite digging 12 inches deep into the fire pits and sifting the ash, there were no bone or dental remains discovered for Marcia Forsberg.

Thompson also said that the wedding ring that Forsberg hurled into the lake from the end of the dock could not be recovered because the area had been dredged between the cremation of the body Feb. 19-21, 2010 and the investigation six months later.

Jonathan Volzke December 06, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Fascinating elements. Nice coverage of the case and trial, Martin. Thanks to you -- and Patch -- for doing it right.

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