Life sentence sought for repeat offender
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fifteen years ago, Raymond Andre Richardson admitted to torturing his then-girlfriend -- hitting her, burning her with cigarettes, dousing her with gasoline and threatening to shoot her. She was three months pregnant with their child.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom sentenced him to 30 years for kidnapping and said a five-year sentence for wanton endangerment could run at the same time.
But in 2003, in an unusual move, the state Supreme Court ruled the sentence was "disproportionate to the crime" and told Bloom to re-sentence him to 10 years in prison.
Bloom did, but wrote in an order, he had "grave misgivings" about doing so and worried that Richardson could become a repeat offender.
On Wednesday, a jury found Richardson, 35, of Charleston, guilty of first-degree robbery, assault during the commission of a felony and possession with intent to deliver cocaine.
Those charges carry a minimum of 10 years in prison, but prosecutors plan to ask Bloom to consider the state's three-strikes law and give Richardson life in prison when he sentences him Feb. 21.
Bloom wrote in his amended sentencing order in January 2004: "Albeit with grave misgivings regarding the sufficiency of said sentence and with serious concerns that Richardson poses a serious risk of recidivist violence, the court perceives that it has no alternative but to enter an amended sentencing order complying with the West Virginia Supreme Court's directive."
At the time the Supreme Court's decision was released, Robin Beatty, Richardson's mother, worked as a secretary in the Chief Counsel's Office of the Supreme Court. She still does, according to the online state employee directory.
She told the Gazette "absolutely not" in previous reports when asked whether she thought her employment affected her son's case.
But re-sentencing orders of this nature are very rare.
"To my knowledge, that's the only time I've seen that type of decision," said Kanawha County assistant prosecutor James Bailey. "Justice [Robin] Davis issued a concurring opinion, but dissented, saying [Richardson] should've gone back before a judge to be re-sentenced."
Richardson was released from prison five years later.
Within six months of his release, Richardson was accused of committing similar acts of domestic violence.
Charges were dropped against him after Ashley Marie Sheets said she was lying when she told police Richardson had held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.
Police had said in a criminal complaint that when a man tried to break up their alleged fight, Richardson allegedly shot him in the leg.
In another criminal complaint in 2005, police wrote that Richardson forced Sheets to strip naked, and then pistol-whipped and punched her, according to previous Gazette reports. Those charges were later dropped.
In June 2005, Richardson was arrested after a woman said he beat her because she refused to answer questions about her relationship with other men. He was indicted on charges of unlawful wounding and domestic battery.
Bloom sentenced Richardson in 2006 to one to five years on the charge of unlawful wounding and gave him credit for 137 days he had already served in jail for domestic battery.
In September 2005, police pulled Richardson over on Interstate 79 for speeding in Clay County, according to West Virginia State Police Trooper Todd Kelly. The body of a woman was found in the back seat.
Richardson told police he was driving his friend Clorissa Fields to the hospital. Gazette reports at the time say she had been stabbed six times.
"The Clay County prosecutor told people he doesn't have enough evidence to charge [Richardson]," Kelly said.
On Wednesday, it took jurors a little more than three hours to find Richardson guilty, Bailey said.
He had been selling cocaine to Denise Cool, a 61-year-old woman, who Bailey described as "living a double life."
"She wasn't your typical victim. Yes, she was a drug addict, but she is a really hard worker. Her co-workers didn't know she used drugs, her friends and her kids didn't know," Bailey said.
Cool had been buying drugs from Richardson for about a year when she noticed he had started ripping her off, according to Bailey.
In the early-morning hours on Aug. 13, Richardson showed up at Cool's apartment in South Charleston.
When she refused to buy drugs from him, he beat her, Bailey said.
"She had bruising all over, a fractured nose. There was blood everywhere," Bailey said.
Cool took the stand during the trial, but was not in the courtroom when the jury came back with a verdict.
South Charleston Detective Andrew Gordon and Bailey drove to Cool's job to tell her. Cool has been drug-free since the incident, according to Bailey.
"She was very emotional and very grateful. It was very rewarding," Bailey said.
Richardson knew Cool wouldn't want to go to police and admit she had been purchasing drugs from him, according to Bailey.
"That's one thing that made this a really hard case. When it was first reported, [Cool] told police she didn't know who did it," Bailey said.
"I was concerned we may lose most of the case," said Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach. "I knew we were dealing with a repeat violent felon. ... Now I'm glad we tried the case."
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1723.