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For week ended March 19, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 15Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mormon On Death Row Seeks Stay Of Execution Today
San Francisco CA Chronicle 13Mar00 P2
By Kevin Fagan: Chronicle Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA -- Darrell Rich, who was raised a Mormon and who spent 22 years on San Quentin's Death Row, is scheduled to be executed today by lethal injection, if his final appeals don't stay the execution. Rich says he has changed since murdering four women and sexually brutalizing five more in 1977. And prison records bear out the fact that he has been a model prisoner. Rich says he has found his spiritual center and is deeply remourseful.

Rich's lawyer James Thomson sent a clemency request to California Governor Gray Davis this month, asking him to weigh the fact that Rich is one-quarter Cherokee, "The execution of a Native American brings to light the dominance and repression by our government of an entire population,'' wrote Thomson. He says that putting Rich to death is merely more genocide, and Thomson has support from several anti-death penalty and American Indian groups. Rich would be the first Indian put to death in California since executions resumed in 1992.

But Gov. Davis rejected Rich's request for clemency on Friday, saying "There is absolutely nothing about Mr. Rich's brutal behavior that warrants clemency.'' People in Cottonwood, a little ranching town south of Redding, California, where Rich committed his crimes, agree with the governor, "Now, what in the world does that have to do with anything?'' sputtered Cottonwood business owner Gary Sullivan. "I'm one-quarter Blackfoot Indian, but if I killed four people I don't believe I'd be able to use race as a defense. . . . You get out of life what you put into it.''

Before Rich went on his rampage, however, there was no sign of his Indian heritage. Rich was adopted by Dean and Lillian Rich when he was 2 days old and raised a Mormon. Those who knew him say he was like other country kids growing up. "He was such a nice little boy, and I bought Christmas cards from him for years,'' said Helen Hencratt, 86, who lives a few blocks from Rich's childhood home. "I asked him what he was going to do with his money, and he smiled this big smile and said, `I'm saving it to buy me a bicycle.' And he did just that.''

His eighth-grade math teacher, Wes Martin, recalled "a quiet boy, not the best student in the world, but certainly not the worst. He was OK at math, and didn't cause much trouble.'' West Cottonwood High School still has his picture in its trophy case, the 1970 Cottonwood Chiefs basketball team went undefeated that year.

"Mr. Rich built that house with his own hands, and he always kept Darrell on a pretty tight leash, taking him to their Mormon church every Sunday,'' said Tricia Maddox, now 51, who grew up next door to Rich. "He once locked my brother in a freezer when they were playing, but there was never any indication he was going to be a killer.''

But underneath the appearances, court records show a few signs of trouble. The Rich's divorced when Darrell was 15, and he stayed with his "domineering" mother, who ran an in-home day care center. "His academic performance deteriorated . . . he was suspended for fighting, and was sometimes truant,'' the court transcripts read. At age 17, he became so depressed ``he went hunting and shot himself in the chest in what was possibly an attempted suicide.'' And by age 19 he was doing time in the California Youth Authority for attacking someone with a tire iron after drinking.

While still under the supervision of the CYA, he married a former classmate and had a son, supporting his family through a job at the Superior Molding wood mill. His life remained stable until his wife left him in 1977, when Rich was 22. He then went on his rampage a year later.

Friends were surprised at what he did, "Sure, he was a hard-ass, a real fighter if you messed with his bike or got him mad, but in a million years I would never have thought he would do what he did to those women,'' said co-worker Gale Croxell. "He played on our company softball team. He liked to go drinking and riding his bike, just like most other guys around here. He didn't stand out.''

At his trial, defense attorney's argued that he suffered from "explosive disorder and major depression,'' adding that after his arrest, he was bewildered, saying "he didn't understand how he could have done what he did." But prosecutors successfully argued that he was normal. "I've been a detective 30 years, and I knew Darrell from the time he was a little boy, but I never saw anything as horrible as the things he did,'' said Shasta County Sheriff's Lt. Bradd McDannold, who helped track down the killer. "If I had an answer to why he went so bad, I'd be a very wealthy individual. Some things you just can't explain.''


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