Timothy Richardson was sentenced to death by the State of North Carolina for the murder of Tracy Marie Rich. According to court documents Timothy Richardson would rob a convenience store and in the process murder Tracy Marie Rich. Timothy Richardson would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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On 6 October 1993 twenty-three-year-old Tracy Marie Rich (victim) went to work at the L & L Food Store in Castalia, North Carolina. Linda Rich, the victim’s mother, spoke with her daughter at approximately 10:00 p.m. According to the computer records of the alarm system installed at the store, the victim closed the store at 11:41 p.m. Ordinarily, the victim would arrive home from work around 11:40 or 11:50 p.m. When her daughter did not return home at her usual time, Linda Rich became worried and drove to the store. Ms. Rich did not find her daughter at the store and did not see anything unusual at the scene; Ms. Rich returned home.
The store’s front-door motion detector and alarm “tripped” at 1:50 a.m. on 7 October. Lieutenant Leonard Brantley of the Nash County Sheriff’s Department was called to the store. Brantley checked the rear of the store and found it to be secure. Another officer informed Brantley that the front door was also secure. Brantley noticed a red car parked behind the store. The car was unoccupied, and no heat was coming from the hood. Brantley subsequently learned that the car was registered to Terry Richardson, defendant’s wife. Neither Brantley nor other officers at the store observed anything out of order, and they left the scene. The front-door alarm did not indicate that the front door was opened again until the next morning when the store was opened for business.
Rose Hankerson, the assistant store manager, arrived at the store on 7 October at approximately 5:55 a.m. and unlocked the store, which was equipped with a two-way lock. When Hankerson reached to put her key in to relock the door from the inside, she noticed that there was a key already in the door. Hankerson walked to the back of the store to turn off the alarm system and saw what she recognized as the victim’s key ring lying on the floor. When Hankerson turned the store lights on, she noticed that part of the store’s ceiling had been knocked out and was lying on the floor. At this time Hankerson called the Sheriff’s Department.
Lieutenant Brantley returned to the store shortly after 6:00 a.m. Pieces of plasterboard from the ceiling were on the floor inside the store. There were also indications that someone had attempted to move the store safe. A ventilator opening on the rear of the building had also been removed. Brantley observed that the red car was gone.
The victim’s body was found wedged under her car on a dirt road not far from the store. The victim’s tennis shoe and her eyeglasses were found in the road near the car. The eyeglasses appeared to have been run over by a vehicle.
Because defendant’s wife’s car had been seen at the store the previous night, defendant became a suspect in the murder investigation. Officers went to defendant’s home and located defendant hiding in the attic. Defendant was arrested and gave several statements to law enforcement officers.
In defendant’s first statement he denied any knowledge of the murder. Defendant told officers that he went to work on the morning of the sixth and then went home for the rest of the night. Defendant stated that he hid from the officers because he thought they were after him for writing a bad check.
When confronted with inconsistencies in his original statement, defendant gave a second statement in which he implicated Kevin Hedgepeth. Defendant stated that he gave Hedgepeth a ride to the store so he could get some money. According to defendant, Hedgepeth grabbed the victim when she came out of the store, put her in the passenger side of her car, and motioned for defendant to follow in his car. Defendant followed Hedgepeth and the victim to a dirt road. Defendant stated that he saw the victim run by his car and that he witnessed Hedgepeth run over the victim. Defendant told officers that the victim attempted to crawl out of the road and that Hedgepeth backed up and ran over her again.
Defendant stated that Hedgepeth came over to his car and got in the passenger side. Hedgepeth told defendant that he had some money and wanted “to go to get a rock” (crack cocaine). Defendant stated that after purchasing “a rock,” Hedgepeth told him that he wanted to go back to the store because he had the keys.
Defendant stated that he and Hedgepeth returned to the store, and Hedgepeth went inside while defendant parked the car. Defendant then also went into the store. When officers arrived at the store in response to the alarm, Hedgepeth hid inside the store and defendant left through the roof. After the officers left the area, Hedgepeth also left the store through the roof. Defendant stated that he gave Hedgepeth a ride home and that Hedgepeth gave him thirty dollars. Defendant stated that he knew Hedgepeth did not have any money before the victim was murdered.
After defendant gave his second statement, the police located Kevin Hedgepeth. Hedgepeth told officers that on 6 October, he got home around 11:00 p.m. Hedgepeth stated that defendant arrived at his house at approximately 2:00 a.m. and asked for a ride to Castalia. Defendant told Hedgepeth he was out of gas and needed a ride to his car. Hedgepeth and his uncle dropped defendant off near the store but did not see defendant’s car. The police cleared and released Hedgepeth.
In a third statement defendant told officers that he and Hedgepeth were dropped off together by Hedgepeth’s uncle at the store. Defendant maintained that Hedgepeth was also present during the murder.
At trial State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Joyce Petzka, an expert in comparing footprint and tire-track impressions, opined that a shoe impression left on a piece of plasterboard collected from the store was made by defendant’s right shoe. Special Agent Jonathon Macy, an expert in the field of forensic fiber identification, testified that fibers taken from the T-shirt defendant was wearing when he was arrested were consistent with fibers found on the victim’s shirt. Agent Macy also testified that polyester fibers taken from the plasterboard at the roof entry of the store were consistent with fibers that made up the yarn of defendant’s T-shirt.
Dr. Robert E. Zipf testified that the victim died as a result of multiple blunt-force injuries and compression injuries to her body, head, and chest as a result of being hit by and run over with a vehicle.
Defendant presented evidence during the sentencing proceeding that he had been married to Terry Richardson for ten years and had a two-year-old daughter. Mrs. Richardson testified that defendant had a good relationship with his daughter. Mrs. Richardson also testified that defendant had a problem with drugs.
Defendant presented the testimony of two mental health experts. Dr. Billy Royal testified that based upon his evaluation and the results of defendant’s testing, defendant suffered from crack-cocaine abuse and dependency, cocaine intoxication which was in remission, marijuana dependency which was in remission, alcohol abuse and alcohol intoxication in remission, borderline mental retardation, mild neurocognitive disorder, and personality disorder. Dr. Royal testified that he felt defendant’s retardation was caused by acute lead intoxication at the age of three. Dr. Royal also testified that the lead accounted for defendant’s neurocognitive disorder. Dr. Royal testified that in his opinion defendant’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct was impaired at the time of the crime and that on the date of the murder defendant suffered from an emotional illness that prevented him from appreciating the criminality of the present charge.
Dr. John Gorman testified that defendant had significant difficulty with anything based upon language functioning and that his “overall functioning would be comparable to that of an average eleven-and-a-half [or] twelve-year-old.” Dr. Gorman testified that defendant has “fairly significant intellectual limitations” which are aggravated by drug use, making “his judgment and other functionings even less effective than they normally are.” Dr. Gorman also opined that defendant “has significant limitations as far as being able to anticipate consequences when he’s straight or when he’s in regular state of mind. And when he has been ingesting various drugs, I’m sure he has even less capacity to anticipate the consequences of his acts.”
The prosecution and defense stipulated that defendant’s criminal record consisted of a misdemeanor worthless-check charge in 1989, a misdemeanor larceny in 1991, and several traffic violations.