BEL AIR, Md. (WJZ) — A Harford County teenager killed his father, leaving friends and neighbors with more questions than answers.
Vic Carter investigates the stunning crime and why so many are rushing to the teen’s defense.
Inside one Bel Air Home, something terrible happened. Sixteen-year-old Robert Richardson told police he grabbed a gun and killed his father and it was no accident.
“He didn’t wake up that morning and say `I’m gonna blow my father’s brains out.’ That’s been coming for a long time,” said cousin Mary Jane Richardson. “He was terrorized. He was terrified of his father.”
Robert Richardson’s friends say he wore dirty, worn-out clothes that didn’t fit and was often black and blue.
“He had bruises a couple times,” said Robert’s friend, Hannah Siple. “Sometimes on his face. Most of the time on his arms, like chest, collarbone…just everywhere.”
“I just wish I could have done something for him before,” said Robert’s friend, Josh Eisner.
Vic Carter met with family, friends and neighbors who have started a Free Robert Richardson Facebook page to raise money for his defense.
“There’s a child that needs somebody’s help and we may be late but we’re here now,” said parent Eileen Siple.
“We know what he did was wrong,” said Crystal Testerman. “We just want him to have a shot at a future. That’s why we’re all here.”
Few knew Richardson’s father better than his cousin Mary Jane, who grew up with him and still lives just a few miles away.
“My first thought was `What the hell did he do to that child to make him like that?'” Mary Jane Richardson said. “‘Cause he was never like that.”
There’s no doubt that Robert Richardson killed his father, but what many in this Bel Air neighborhood are asking is whether there were warning signs that were missed and could authorities have acted before it was too late?
“I know that there were so many signs that something was wrong in that house and too many people looked the other way,” Eileen Siple said.
WJZ obtained documents which show Harford County Sheriff deputies responded to the Richardson’s home 16 times, but never for domestic violence. While people now say the teen was in danger, the Sheriff’s Department never suspected abuse.
Social Services refused to tell WJZ whether they were involved.
“I felt the boy has been so let down and no love and no nurturing since his mother died,” Mary Jane Richardson said.
While rare, children killing parents does happen, including cases in Cockeysville and Towson. Each time, people asked whether something could have been done to prevent it.
“We are all responsible for the children. We all are, every one of us. Every single person who looks the other way is guilty,” Eileen Siple said.
All the Free Richardson supporters can focus on now is seeing that the courts treat Robert as a troubled teen who was pushed into pulling the trigger.
“Justifiable homicide. You’re darn right I believe it,” Mary Jane Richardson said.
Richardson is charged as an adult with murder and is being held without bail. So far, the Free Robert Richardson Facebook page has raised $4,500 for his defense.