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Mass. cop killer seeks early release

One of three men sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 murder of a police chief will state his case for early release

By Craig S. Semon
Telegram & Gazette

NATICK, Mass. - Jamie C. Richards, one of three Worcester men sentenced to life in prison for the 1994 murder of Paxton Police Chief Robert J. Mortell, will state his case Thursday for early release before the state Parole Board.

Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. will attend in opposition, according to the DA's spokesman, Timothy J. Connolly.

Also expected to testify against Mr. Richards' release is Col. Richard D. McKeon, then the head of the state police detective unit that handled the investigation. Mr. McKeon is now the head of the state police.

In addition, Erin L. Mortell, who was 11 at the time of her father's murder, said she and her brother, Elliott, who was 8 at the time of the death, and Chief Mortell's widow, Pamela S. Mortell, plan to be there in opposition, joined by several cousins.

A father of three, Chief Mortell, 38, was killed in an exchange of gunfire on Feb. 1, 1994, in woods off Route 31 in Holden. He was responding to a request from Holden police that he and his tracking dog, Ginger, help find three men who had broken in to two houses earlier in the day and had stolen a truck at gunpoint. The men fled on foot after the truck became stuck in the snow.

Chief Mortell was driving along Route 31 when he saw the suspects. He got out of his cruiser and went into the woods after them, leaving the dog behind.

Chief Mortell was fatally shot in the left side and back with rounds from a semiautomatic 9 mm Taurus handgun.

Mr. Richards, along with Kenneth N. Padgett and Michael D. Souza, were charged with the murder.

Mr. Richards and Mr. Padgett were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to the mandatory terms of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole in 15 years. Mr. Souza, the alleged shooter, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

On Jan. 13, 1998, Judge James P. Donohue sentenced Mr. Richards to four life terms on armed robbery and confining charges, stemming from a Jan. 6, 1994, armed robbery at the former Mechanics Bank at 569 Southbridge St., Auburn.

The sentences imposed on Mr. Richards on Jan. 13, 1998, were to run concurrently with the life sentence imposed on July 5, 1995, when Mr. Richards pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Chief Mortell.

On Jan. 13, 1998, Mr. Richards pleaded guilty in Worcester Superior Court to three counts of armed robbery while masked, five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon (handgun) and single counts of confining or putting in fear for the purpose of stealing and receiving a stolen motor vehicle. Mr. Richards was sentenced to a concurrent term of 10 to 12 years on the charge of receiving a stolen motor vehicle and to five concurrent terms of 4 to 5 years on the five charges of assault a dangerous weapon.

After his murder conviction, Mr. Richards was indicted in an armed robbery that took place July 30, 1993, at the Commerce Jewelry store at 120 Stafford St. He was later acquitted.

Under the life sentence imposed in 1995 for the second-degree murder conviction, Mr. Richards would have been eligible to seek parole after serving 15 years. The sentence imposed on Jan. 13, 1998, also carried a 15-year parole eligibility.

©2017 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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