Calaveras County man found guilty in farmer’s stabbing death

Dustin Dougherty died of his stab wound on Sept. 29, 2017. Heder Migoya was found guilty of second-degree murder in connection with his death. Courtesy photo

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WOODLAND — Rejecting the defendant’s claims of self-defense, a Yolo County jury convicted Heder Migoya of second-degree murder Monday for the fatal stabbing of his estranged wife’s new boyfriend last fall at a rural Davis farm.

The six-man, six-woman panel acquitted Migoya of first-degree murder in the death of Dustin “Dusty” Dougherty, 40.

Migoya, 34, bowed his head but showed no other visible reaction as he heard the verdicts, reached after about a full day of deliberations that began last Friday afternoon.

Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall scheduled a June 12 sentencing hearing, where Migoya faces a state prison term of 16 years to life.

Prosecutors theorized that Migoya erupted in a jealous rage on the night of Sept. 29, 2017, when he arrived unannounced at Heavy Dirt Farm on County Road 95 to drop off his son and found his estranged wife, Lori Sievers, in the same bedroom as Dougherty.

Sievers testified that Migoya physically and emotionally abused her during their marriage, and that he frequently accused her of infidelity even after their separation a year before.

“If he couldn’t have Lori, he was not going to let anybody else have Lori either,” Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor had told the jury in her opening statement.

Zambor said that when Sievers took their 3-year-old son out of the bedroom, Migoya pounced upon Dougherty as he tried to hide on the bed, using his pocket knife to deliver a 5½-inch fatal stab wound that pierced Dougherty’s heart.

But if Migoya acted willfully, deliberately and with premeditation, as a first-degree murder conviction requires, the evidence didn’t meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshold for that intent, jury foreman Ted Sommer of Davis said.

“The threshold is beyond a reasonable doubt, not what a reasonable person infers from the evidence,” said Sommer, who called the case “extremely emotional.”

Heder Leising Migoya at his arraignment hearing last year. Enterprise file photo

“The jurors felt just as much emotion as many of the people in the courtroom,” he said.

Migoya claimed he acted in self-defense, testifying in court last week that Dougherty had thrown a blanket or jacket over his face and grabbed the pocket knife he kept in his front pocket, triggering a violent struggle between the two men.

“I fell on him and my mind went blank. I saw everything white,” Migoya said through a Spanish-language interpreter. “I started to attack, and I don’t know what I was doing.”

Migoya claimed he had been trying to stab at Dougherty’s leg to disable him, and he wasn’t aware of the fatal wound until after his arrest hours later, when Yolo County sheriff’s detectives informed him Dougherty had died.

But the jury didn’t buy it, said Sommer, who noted that Migoya’s testimony lacked consistency and that his description of the self-defense scenario was “not credible.”

Migoya’s lead attorney, Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, could not be reached for comment about the verdicts.

Dougherty’s family and friends, who sat in court throughout the two-week trial, declined interviews as they left the courthouse.

Zambor described Dougherty as a “kind and gentle soul” who never saw the attack coming.

“It was so clear from talking with each of Dusty’s family members and friends just how special Dusty was as a person, and what a hole the defendant has left by taking his life,” Zambor said. “You could feel the outpouring of love and emotion, which was a direct result of the impact that Dusty made on everyone around him.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

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