Father Acquitted of Rape of Baby, Murder Cover-Up
A 34-year-old man was acquitted today of raping his 4-month-old daughter and scheming with his wife to conceal the infant’s sexual assault and slaying by reporting her kidnaped from her crib.
Ralph Richard raised his clasped hands over his head and spectators let out a collective gasp when the verdict was delivered in the packed courtroom.
The Superior Court jury of seven women and five men had considered the case for 14 hours over three days before returning the verdicts in the highly publicized eight-week trial.
When the verdicts were read, Richard leaned across the defense table and whispered to prosecutor Charles Nystedt: “My train has arrived, Mr. Nystedt. My train has arrived.”
Innocent of 3 Counts
Richard was found innocent of three felony counts of first-degree child molestation, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and two misdemeanor charges of filing a false police report and conspiracy to file a police report.
Richard’s wife, Donna, who is expecting the couple’s second child in July, still faces trial later this year on charges of murdering the baby, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
If convicted, Richard could have faced up to life imprisonment plus 12 years and a $5,500 fine.
Richard and his wife, who is charged with beating the infant to death, reported their baby daughter, Jerri Ann, missing on Nov. 11, 1984. The Richards, both 34, told police an intruder climbed through a window of their second-story apartment and took their only child while they were asleep in a nearby room.
The Richards made a tearful television plea for the safe return of their daughter and a nationwide alert was put out for the alleged kidnaper. Four days later, on Nov. 15, Jerri Ann’s raped and beaten body was found in a narrow alley less than a block from her parents’ Pawtucket apartment.
The child’s partially nude body appeared to have been gently placed on a swept pile of debris. An autopsy revealed that the infant had been raped and that she died from at least three powerful blows to the head which fractured her skull.
The state claimed that a sexually frustrated Richard raped the baby and that his wife, unaware the child had been assaulted, bludgeoned the child in the shower stall of the apartment to quiet her screams. Prosecutors said Richard placed the body in the alley as part of the conspiracy to make it appear the infant had been kidnaped.
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