By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Richards Admits Guilt After 25 Years

 

Photo provided

Jim Richards was shot in his home in Seeley Lake on March 5, 1992. His wife Becky was convicted of his murder and is currently serving a life sentence.

BILLINGS – At her parole hearing April 21, Seeley Lake woman Becky Lynn Richards admitted she shot her husband Jim after 25 years of maintaining her innocence. The Montana Board of Pardons and Parole denied her parole and said she would be eligible for parole again in three years.

On March 5, 1992 Richards reported that her husband Jim had committed suicide. Jim died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Law enforcement initially ruled it a suicide based on Richards' story. However, seven months after Jim's death, murder charges were filed against Richards when lab tests showed no gunpowder residue on Jim's hand, no blood on the pistol and other evidence indicating it was not a suicide.

A jury convicted Richards of murder on April 27, 1993. Missoula County District Court Judge Ed McLean sentenced her June 1, 1993 to life in prison for shooting Jim in their Seeley Lake home. She was also convicted of 42 counts of theft, five charges of forgery and one count of deceptive practices, mostly in connection with her role as the bookkeeper in her husband's and his brother's logging company.


Richards has remained in the Montana State Women's Prison in Billings. She was eligible for parole the first time in 2007 and again in 2012. At each hearing she continued to maintain her innocence.

During her third parole hearing Friday, April 21, 2017, Richards read a prepared statement, "I am guilty and take full responsibility and apologize to the family."

According to Montana Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Kristy Cobban, board chair Bill McChesney asked Richards how she felt about taking the life of another human being for personal gain, Richards replied that she felt horrible for all she had done.

McChesney asked if that was an admission of guilt. Richards said it was not an easy yes or no. When McChesney said he thought it was a yes or no question, she replied, "I am responsible for shooting my husband."

When he asked Richards if it was for personal gain, she replied yes.

Cobban said parole board member Patricia Iron Cloud addressed Richards' remorse. Iron Cloud said that it appeared that Richards felt sorry for the family but did not indicate remorse for taking her husband's life.

To release someone on parole, Cobban said the board must consider what has been done to rehabilitate the offender, if they have taken accountability for the crime and assess if they are a risk to society.

"If someone is showing no remorse for a crime they have committed even if they take responsibility, the board then has concerns. If they aren't showing remorse, what would hinder them from committing the crime again," said Cobban.

Jamie Richards Matthew, Jim's daughter, emailed this statement in response to Richards' parole hearing.

"When I heard Becky admit guilt at the parole hearing April 21, I was shocked. Not shocked that she was guilty, because I have never doubted that she murdered my dad. However, I was shocked that she had finally admitted to his murder after 25 years of denying it and lying about it.


My dad and I were so close, and on March 5, 1992, when she chose to end his life at only 33 years old, it shattered my 11-year-old heart and changed my life forever. There is not a day that goes by that my heart doesn't miss him and ache for the memories that my children, my family and I should have had with my dad. He should be here.

Becky taking responsibility or apologizing doesn't change the fact that she selfishly took his life. Even though I have always known the truth, especially after sitting through the murder trial myself, to the world Becky has simply been convicted of deliberate homicide and now, since admitting it herself, she has not simply been found guilty of it, she is and always was guilty.

Hearing from Becky's own mouth that she shot my dad does not give me closure or help me to heal. In my opinion, there is no closure for a crime this heinous and no amount of time makes the hole in my heart and life any smaller."

Ron Richards, Jim's father, and his family would like to thank the Seeley Lake community for their continued support and prayers over the last 25 years. They sent this written statement:

"Our heartfelt thanks go to the Seeley Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Quick Response Unit (QRU) members that dealt with the impact, stress and shock of this horrific and violent emergency situation.

The Richards family appreciates and extends a debt of gratitude to the Missoula County Sheriff's office, especially Capt. Jerry Crego, retired, and Deputy Bob Parcell for their efforts in this convoluted and perplexing investigation.

Thank you to the Missoula County Attorney's office for sending James McCubbin to testify at the parole hearing in opposition to parole.  Also, current Sanders County Attorney Robert Zimmerman and retired Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg for their efforts in this intricate and tangled case. 


Additionally, we want to recognize and are so grateful to the members of the jury, to the Honorable Judge Ed McLean, Honorable Judge Robert "Dusty" Deshamps, and Honorable Judge Douglas Harkin for your part in one of the most monumental and onerous cases ever taken to trial in Missoula County.  This was a very complicated, emotional and heinous case to hear and adjudicate.

After 25 years, our family, friends, community and especially the jury, who believed the jury's verdict, have been vindicated.

Becky Richards' confession at her parole hearing on April 21, 2017, that "she killed her husband Jim" was long overdue."

Cobban said that the parole board denied Richards' parole because of the severity of the offense and they questioned her remorse.

Richards will be eligible for parole again in March 2020.

Gary Noland, Pathfinder 1993

On June 1, 1993, a despondent Chief Public Defender Margaret Borg stands with her client Becky Lynn Richards who began crying after hearing Judge McLean's life sentence for the murder of her husband Jim.

 

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