tv The Mystery at Pictured Rocks MSNBC January 14, 2012 9:00am-10:00am PST
whee whee wheeeeeeeeeeee! everything you love about geico, now mobile. download the new geico app today. whee wheeeeeeeeeeee-he-he-heeeeee! 911, emergency. >> has the jury reached a verdict? >> we the jury find the defendant -- ♪ there was only one body. >> mrs. richdardson's body was in plain view at the bottom of the cliff. >> but so many explanations of how it got there. >> i was suspicious. >> first her husband said it was an accident, then suicide. >> suicide's out of the question. she's not going to fall off. there's only one thing left. >> murder? >> mom told me she fell from a
cliff. she and tom were there. just instantly i knew. >> but could anyone prove it? no witnesses. no evidence. and a broken-hearted husband. >> when you lose somebody like that, it's like you have this hole inside you. >> but of course, prosecutors did have one thing. >> he just says when she dies, will you wait for me? i said yeah, i'm not going nowhere. >> the mystery at pictured rocks. >> thanks for joining us. i'm ann curry. they were a hard-working couple and they cherished the rare chance to get away from it all and when they did, they loved hiking in the wilderness, but what happened on their last trip stunned everyone. within hours police thought there was just one explonation. and now they had to prove it. here's josh mankiewicz. >> it's so quiet on these cliffs that sometimes all you can hear is the wind.
>> it was special to them. that's where they went when they first got married. >> it's a beautiful place, a lonely place. >> she's not going to get close enough to the edge of a cliff. she didn't like heights. >> and, if you listen to that wind, you'll hear a story. >> i was up there, and i just sat right down and the wind was just blowing in my face. and i just thought, this is so juanita. >> it's a story that begins more than 200 miles away from the windswept cliffs in mcbane, michigan, a farming town with just one traffic light. here tom and juanita richardson were living the midwestern edition of the american dream in a modern-day log home tom had built for his wife and their three kids, lacine, lindsey and levi.
>> he's a man of integrity. he worked long and hard hours for our family. >> tom made a solid living driving a truck for fedex. juanita was a secretary for the local school. he taught a youth group at their church. she sang in the choir. >> she knew how to be a great mom but still be able to have a friendship with us. >> how did your parents get along? >> great. >> they didn't argue? >> i think every couple argues. they weren't perfect, but they loved each other. >> that sounds to me like a good marriage. >> it was a great marriage. >> a happy 23-year marriage that was now entering a new phase. as levi graduated high school, mom and dad had an empty nest at last. they could now take a long-deserved vacation. tom called it a second honeymoon, just the two of them, up here, way up here, to michigan's upper peninsula or, as the locals call it, the u.p.
>> she was really excited to go up there and spend time with my dad. >> their destination, pictured rocks national lakeshore, 40 miles of craggy shoreline along lake superior, the largest, deepest and coldest of the great lakes. the park is a backpacker's paradise. >> they both loved the outdoors, loved to get away and discover new things. >> and they'd discovered something new each time they came to pictured rocks, where the pictures are stunning, but the rocks can be treacherous. it was a cloudy, misty morning, june 22nd, the fourth day of their vacation. juanita and tom were out hiking. she was taking pictures of sights along the trail. around 10:30 a.m., tom and juanita arrived here. they called it their honeymoon spot. a place they visited not long after they were married some 23 years earlier. they stopped for some snacks and to rest their tired feet. what happened next is where the
mystery begins. at 10:55, juanita snapped this photo of tom sitting on a grassy patch along this cliff, right at their special spot. then tom left her and hiked to the bathroom at the visitor's center. when he got back, juanita was gone. he ran for help. >> his initial report was that she was essentially missing and unaccounted for. >> jim northup is the superintendent in charge of pictured rocks. >> he didn't know if she'd fallen off the cliff, if she'd gone for a walk, if she'd been abducted or maybe attacked by a bear. >> but within 45 minutes park rangers found juanita richardson. what did you find at the scene? >> mrs. richardson's body was in plain view at the bottom of the cliff. >> juanita fell 140 feet from right here. it's the equivalent of falling off a 14-story building. and at impact her body was going
45 miles an hour. by the time rescuers reached her on the lakeshore below, she was dead. >> the pastor of our church called me and told me. about the news. >> and said what? >> it was such a blur, i can't remember much. but that there'd been an accident, and my mom didn't make it. i think he said that she had fallen off from a cliff. >> their dad later called them in tears. [ phone ringing n. [ >> hello? >> hi, girl wonder. >> hi, daddy. >> how are you doing? >> okay. how are you? >> i'm a mess. >> are you coming home? >> yeah. as soon as i can get on the road. >> tom made the four-hour drive home to mcbane where the richardson kids comforted him and each other through the memorial service for their mom.
>> he looked like a broken man, just trying to hold himself together but couldn't do it. >> tom richardson had just lost his wife, but this tragedy wasn't over. he was about to lose a lot more. coming up -- the tragedy turns into a mystery. >> suicide is out of the question. she's not going to fall off. there's only one thing left. >> and that's murder. >> that's murder. this is an rc robotic claw. my high school science teacher made me what i am today. our science teacher helped us build it. ♪ now i'm a geologist at chevron, and i get to help science teachers. it has four servo motors and a wireless microcontroller. over the last three years we've put nearly 100 million dollars into american education. that's thousands of kids learning to love science. ♪ isn't that cool? and that's pretty cool. ♪
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>> juanita richardson was the first person to ever fall off the cliff here at pictured rocks national lakeshore. >> no one falls off the cliff? >> no, it has never occurred before. >> so how did it happen to juanita? tom had told park rangers that he hadn't seen her fall. just hours after her body was dragged from the rocky shore, deputy sheriff steve blank sat down to interview tom to find out what he did see. >> there was a park ranger and another deputy with tom in what they call a quiet room at the hospital, and that was my first encounter with tom. >> now, tom told his story, and it was slightly different from the one he told before. >> he told me they basically started walking down the foot trail. that their feet started to get sore. so he both decided to find what they called their honeymoon spot. tom told me at first they walked
right by it. they didn't recognize the spot. he kind of laughed and joked about that. once they got there, juanita took some pictures that juanita's the camera person. she takes all the picture. as a matter of fact, she's the type of person that he called a risk taker where she would just hang on to a piece of bark and basically being over a cliff or whatever and snap some photos and types of things. >> he said he left juanita to go to the bathroom at the visitor's center, stopped at his car to change his shoes and his sunglasses and return to the honeymoon spot. but juanita was gone. he called for her shouting up the trail. >> he said because he is so deathly afraid of heights, he got down on his hands and knees, crawled to the cliff site, looked over, seen something white at the bottom, and because his wife had a white jacket on, he assumed that was her, got up and ran as fast as he could back out to the visitor center to report that his wife had fallen.
>> as he listened to this story, deputy blank saw something odd about tom's delivery. how did he strike you? >> hadn't i known any circumstances, i wouldn't know that i was talking to a man whose wife had just died. >> too calm? >> very calm. a lot of the people that i've come across who have lost a loved one sometimes are very hysterical. a lot of times crying, upset. wanting to be with family. wanting to make phone calls. all these things, tom just -- he didn't show me those signs. he didn't ask to make phone calls. he wasn't upset, hysterical. he was just kind of sitting there having a conversation with me. >> and he noticed something else. >> he would pause at times that made me think there's something
more here that he wants to tell me. >> you mean he would pause at different times during the narrative? >> yeah, there were certain parts where he had paused and it was always when he came back to the cliff site. >> and about 10:30 that night, deputy blank heard more. and all of a sudden, tom starts telling a different sorry? >> yes. >> he says i came back from the visitor's center and this time i saw her standing there? >> yes. waited to make eye contact with her. and once the eye contact was made, she turned and jumped and she screamed, oh, my god. >> the suicide of juanita richardson, witnessed by her husband. >> i asked tom why he waited to tell me this. tom said that he was trying to protect juanita's reputation. he didn't want anybody to think that she was crazy. >> i'm not a cop. this would make me suspicious. >> i was suspicious. >> but what happened the next morning was even stranger. tom told blank yet another version of what happened. this time, what did he say?
>> when he walked up to the cliff site, juanita was standing there as though she wanted to show him something and she kind of turned and just fell over. >> so now it's an accident? >> now it's an accident. >> three stories of how juanita died in the first 24 hours after her death. if it was an accident, why say it was suicide? >> his only answer was "that's how i can remember it." >> was tom's mind literally playing tricks on him? blank began to think something more sinister had happened up on that cliff, but with no proof of foul play, tom was free to go home to a family that was already choosing sides. tom's kids knew he'd done nothing wrong. juanita's parents, don and jeannie culver, knew otherwise. >> suicide is out of the question. she's not going to get close enough to the edge of a cliff. she didn't like heights. she's not going to fall off. there's only one thing left. >> and that's murder. >> that's murder.
>> juanita's sister, jeannette, had the same suspicions. you hear your sister's dead and your first thought is? >> he did it. when i heard cliff, i could understand car accident or something. but i said what happened? and mom told me. she fell from a cliff. her and tom were there. and just instantly i knew. >> that make sense? >> i don't know. >> jeannette and her parents both openly admit they never much cared for tom. juanita loved him, and so they tried to as well. but tom made that difficult. you never saw him be physically abusive to her? >> no. emotionally all the time. >> verbally abusive? >> oh, yeah. >> like what? >> oh, get your head out your ass, you're so stupid. anything she did it was never right. >> and he would say get your head out of your, in your presence? >> yes. >> to your daughter? >> yes. >> how did you keep from knocking him flat? >> well, it was a struggle.
>> but tom and juanita's children say they never saw anything like the marriage their aunt and grandparents describe. you never saw any verbal abuse from your father to your mother? >> not that wasn't playful. they would have playful talk but nothing that was ever harsh or demeaning. >> it's been portrayed as a kind of a stormy marriage. when you hear that, what do you guys think? >> we were around them the most, and there was never a stormy marriage. it was just a normal marriage. >> when tom got home, he let them know about the questioning he'd faced up at pictured rocks and that some found his behavior suspicious. but in their hearts, the three kids knew their dad would never have hurt their mom, much less kill her. >> i honestly questioned, what if he did do this. and just about as immediately as that thought came into my head, i told myself there's no way he would be capable of that. >> the three would form a united front supporting their dad as the police began investigating
him with much of their detective work focused on one woman. >> she was to this case what amber frey was to the scott peterson case. coming up -- tom richardson's other woman. tom told you his wife wouldn't be alive by christmas? ve tough , do you want fast relief? try bayer advanced aspirin. it's not the bayer aspirin you know. it's different. first, it's been re-engineered with micro-particles. second, it enters the bloodstream fast, and rushes relief to the site of your tough pain. the best part? it's proven to relieve pain twice as fast as before. bayer advanced aspirin. test how fast it works for you. love it, or get your money back. all your important legal matters in just minutes. now it's quicker and easier for you to start your business...
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the investigation of tom richardson was now underway and moving to tom's hometown. michigan state police detective jeff herweyer grew up in mcbain and knew juanita from high school. now he'd be investigating her possible murder. people that you knew that you grew up with were calling you and telling you stuff? >> exactly. >> and they were saying what? >> they didn't feel she fell off the cliff. they felt that potentially tom was involved. >> we're talking about just a couple of people or a lot of people? >> dozens. >> one thing he found out, the richardsons' perfect marriage
wasn't so perfect. seven years earlier, tom had an affair with another woman. you knew your parents had trouble in their marriage, your father had an affair? >> earlier on, yes. >> did your mother ever talk with any of you about divorcing your father? vows, that when she made her vows for better or worse, that is what she meant, till death do us part. and she was the one talking about trying to reconcile. >> and within a year, the couple did reconcile. tom had told investigators they'd been happy together ever since. but detective herweyer learned otherwise. tom told people he wished he hadn't reconciled? >> right. >> so this wonderful sort of indian summer of their marriage, fantasy? >> major fantasy. i didn't buy it. >> but even if tom were unhappy, what motive could he have for killing juanita? for one thing, money.
herweyer learned juanita's insurance policies would net tom nearly a quarter of a million dollars. that wouldn't make him rich, but it would free him from the pile of debt they'd wracked up building that expensive new home. and a tip led investigators to another possible motive. her name, kelli brophy. she worked at a convenience store on tom's fedex route. >> he spent a lot of time with kelli brophy. >> do you think they had an affair? >> yes, i do. >> kelli says it never happened. did you have an affair with tom richardson? >> no. >> did you think he was cute? >> didn't give it a thought. kelli says she and tom were just close friends who talked on the phone while they both worked at night. and what would you guys talk about during these calls? >> usually bible studies. >> if true, there was a lot of bible study going on. investigators learned they talked on the phone 383 times in less than ten months.
if i'm calling somebody 383 times, one of us thinks something's going on. >> but i didn't. i just was a friend, just being a friend. >> was kelli just a friend? she'd tell investigators she believed tom was innocent, but then she'd keep talking to them for hours. >> i compared kelli brophy to wringing water out of a dish rag. we would gain a little more each time we interviewed her. >> like when kelli told them that tom had given her a pair of earrings for christmas and then the revelation that shocked investigators. tom had also told kelli that juanita would soon be dead. tom told you that his wife wouldn't be alive by christmas? >> right. >> he told you juanita had cancer. >> yes. i believe that he thought she had cancer. >> juanita had found a lump in her breast, but there was no cancer. was tom telling the truth to kelli, and if not, why would he lie? maybe because of something kelli
once said to him about her requirements for a husband. you said wanted someone who had a relationship with god, who wasn't a smoker or a drinker and who didn't have a living ex-spouse. >> right. >> and tom had a question for kelli. >> juanita's sick and when she dies, will you wait for me? i said yeah. i'm not going nowhere. that's what a friend would do, a friend would stand beside him no matter what. >> these two friends talked on the phone a lot, but a single call may be the key to all of this. tom called kelli from pictured rocks on his cell phone on june 21st, 2006, the night before juanita's death. they spoke for 13 minutes. what did you guys talk about in that call? >> nothing. if i remember right, i was in bed sleeping, and i just listened. i don't know if he was plotting something. i don't know -- i don't know anything. all i just know is that he told me what he wanted me to know.
and i believed him. >> shortly after juanita died, tom showed up at kelli's house with another gift, a plant from juanita's memorial service. he didn't tell you why he was giving you the plant? >> no. >> but it meant something to you, didn't it, that plant? >> no, not really. >> juanita's sister jeannette thinks it means a lot. >> what kind of a girl would -- if she knew where it came from, would accept a gift like that? i think that is a disgrace to my sister. >> whatever had been going on between tom and kelli ended after that visit. with juanita dead only a month, tom started asking friends to fix him up. >> we always said tom was pretty much our best witness throughout this whole investigation. tom could not keep his mouth shut. >> so herweyer had an idea. he'd arrange to set tom up with a new woman who also happened to be a michigan state trooper. that worked.
tom was quite taken with her. >> yes, he did. he bit big time on her. >> and investigators got one of their meetings on videotape. >> my primary love language is personal touch. so if you want me to feel emotionally fulfilled, if you want my emotional gas tank to be full, you need to touch me, hug me, kiss me. >> tom also told the undercover trooper about juanita's accident at pictured rocks. >> and as she turned, she just fell, and i heard her scream on the way down. >> maybe i'll catch you next time but i'm glad you checked your message. >> i'd have been thinking she just blew me off. bye. >> holy [ bleep ]. >> by itself, that tape didn't incriminate tom, but with it police felt they now had enough for a case, including the mysterious relationship with
kelli brophy, the life insurance, and tom richardson's three different tales of how juanita died. >> we had three uniformed troopers approach him first to arrest him. >> it came on february 6th, 2007. the charge? first-degree murder. but with only circumstantial evidence, could the prosecutor make the charge stick? coming up -- a husband on trial as prosecutors present disturbing pictures from a not-so-perfect marriage. >> i've heard him call her a dumb b-i-t-c-h. >> he always acted like he just despised her. >> but was that a motive for murder? ♪ ♪ you and me and the big old tree ♪ ♪ side by side, one, two, three ♪ ♪ count the birds in the big old tree ♪ ♪ la la la [ male announcer ] the inspiring story of how a shipping giant can befriend a forest may seem like the stuff of fairy tales.
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three bodies have been recovered. a federal judge has refused to add candidates to the gop primary ballot. only mitt romney and ron paul will appear on that ballot in march for that primary. now back to the "mystery at pictured rocks." and i'll see you in an hour. ♪ nearly two years had passed since juanita richardson's mysterious fatal plunge from that wind-swept cliff at pictured rocks. two years of questions. did she fall? could she have committed suicide? or did her husband tom somehow force her off that cliff 140 feet to the rocky shore below? what terrible thing happened at their honeymoon spot? >> all rise. >> now tom's trial would begin,
and each side in the courtroom thought they knew the answers. on one side, tom and juanita's three kids firmly convinced their dad didn't kill their mom. on the other side, juanita's parents and sister, equally certain of tom's guilt. with no eyewitnesses, prosecutor karen barhmann's case would have to focus on tom richardson himself. >> you'll learn that he wanted out of this marriage and that he chose murder over divorce by weighing the pros and cons of being widowed versus being divorced. >> she began with tom's story, actually those three conflicting stories he first told investigators in the hours after juanita's death. >> he walked to the cliff and his wife was standing there. >> story one, he didn't see anything. story two, he saw juanita commit suicide. and story three, he saw her accidentally fall. which of those stories did you believe?
>> i didn't believe any of them. >> now add those conflicting stories to tom's behavior just after juanita's death. >> it was enormously surprising to me that he never wanted to know, well, how far did she fall? what is her condition? how soon can i be with her? and he only became emotional one time when he was telling me about how they'd gone to his honeymoon spot. he put his face in his hands like this and made some sobbing noises. then when he took his hands away from his face, i didn't see any tears. it struck me as very bad acting. >> you thought it was phony? >> i did. >> then dozens of friends and neighbors from the richardson's hometown of mcbain would provide scenes from a marriage with an abusive husband. >> i've heard him call her a dumb b-i-t-c-h, you know, she's stupid.
he made her cry. >> he called her horrible names and always acted like he just despised her. >> when she came in to purchase gas, she had a black eye. >> the prosecutor painted a portrait of a man who had simply enough of his wife and envisioned a new life without her. with the insurance payments from juanita's death, tom could live debt-free, a much better prospect than a costly divorce. >> i do. >> fbi financial expert bill vos did the math for the jury. >> there was four different life insurance policy, life annuity types of policies. >> for a total of how much? >> roughly $243,000. >> and would that have been sufficient to retire the debt? >> they had a total debt of roughly $235,000. >> miss brophy, would you come forward, please. >> financially secure, she said, tom might then be able to pursue
that murky relationship with kelli brophy, who on the stand walked a narrow line between defending tom and helping the prosecution. >> did he indicate also that he wanted to take care of you? >> yes, i think that was brought up. >> and did you find that concept appealing? >> yes. >> she didn't want to testify at all and only came here under subpoena, still denying she and tom ever had an affair. >> do you recall telling the investigators that tom had asked you that if you weren't married, if you two could date? >> date? i don't recall date. >> what do you recall him asking? >> just if i'd wait for him. >> kelli had agreed to wait. the insurance payout was a given, but according to prosecutors, tom's plan for his post-juanita life had one problem. juanita didn't have a will. >> would you come forward? >> so six days before their vacation, tom had a meeting with an attorney.
>> how would you describe his level of urgency? >> excessively adamant, sitting on the edge of the chair. "we've got to have a will. we've got to have a will. we've got to have a will." >> attorney anthony badinovac was surprised that anyone would so urgently need a will before going on a short vacation to michigan's upper peninsula. >> and what did you end up giving him as advice at that point? >> "chill out. calm down, you're going to the u.p., good for you. god forbid one of should die, it's going to go to the other. see you later." >> so if juanita were to die, tom would inherit everything. a relief. >> when you tell him, how does he respond? >> the heretofore witnessed urgency was completely dissipated. >> ever since juanita's death, tom had been saying that sight at the cliff had been their special place, their honeymoon spot.
but that was news to juanita's father, don culver. >> i never heard this called a honeymoon spot ever. >> you think calling it the honeymoon spot is some sort of after-the-fact contrivance that tom's come up with to justify going to that place? >> exactly. >> yeah. >> i certainly do. >> it should more accurately be called what? >> her death spot. >> what would that fall from the death spot have looked like? barhmann showed jurors a video re-enactment using a dummy to show how bad that fall can be. and the coroner described juanita's brutal injuries on the way down. but he also found one injury he thought was suspicious. this mysterious double bruise on her right thigh. >> i think those two linear bruises are the result of one impact, something that was sort of elongated linear, like a rod or a stick. >> a stick or maybe a kick from tom.
the prosecution's next witness might shed some light. tom's former karate instructor. 15 years earlier, tom had been on his way to earning a black belt. >> what moves or kicks or holds would he know? >> anywhere's between 15 and 25 different kicks. >> it would take just one of those kicks to knock juanita off balance and off that cliff. >> no further questions. >> after five weeks of testimony, the state rested. now it was tom richardson's turn to explain why he wasn't lying, and how three different stories could all be true. coming up -- what happened that day at pictured rocks? >> this is going to be difficult. >> tom's own chilling explanation. copd makes it hard to breathe, so i wasn't playing much of a role in my own life, but with advair, i'm breathing better
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the state of michigan had argued its case against tom richardson. now, tom's defense team could argue theirs. >> this was not a homicide. tom did not kill juanita. her death was an accident. >> defense attorney carl newman argued that the state had provided no evidence of a murder at pictured rocks. >> not a shred of evidence. not one. the prosecutors conceded there is no direct evidence. >> but newmanen said there was evidence of something else, a clumsy woman. juanita he said had suffered a series of leg injuries over the years. >> she's got permanent instability in her left knee. she has a stubbed toe with perhaps broken toes on her left foot. she's wearing sandals.
>> it was an accident waiting to happen, the same one tom had described seeing. but what about tom's three different stories? newmanen brought in a psychologist to explain they were all true. tom was telling it as he recalled it, piece by piece. it's a classic symptom of post-traumatic stress. >> in your opinion, did mr. richardson suffer from a traumatic event that would qualify under acute stress reaction? >> according to the records i have reviewed, yes. >> why did tom tell three different stories to police? >> he just saw the most traumatic, horrifying event of his life. he blocked it out. he could remember everything leading up to it. he could remember everything following, but he could not remember the trauma of seeing his wife go over the cliff. >> but "i can't remember" is different from what tom told police. >> he tried to tell the police exactly what happened to the best his brain would allow him to do. >> as for tom's second story that juanita committed suicide,
newmanen said that came from police. >> when you're in that kind of confusion and being peppered with questions by the authorities, he came to the same conclusion that they came to and said what they wanted him to say. >> the prosecution had presented a picture of a man eager to dispose of his wife and enjoy the windfall from her insurance. but the defense showed that when choosing a policy, tom hadn't always gone for the biggest payout available. >> he was given an option, you can buy life insurance policy on your spouse, you can get a $10,000 amount or a $25,000 amount. he picked a $10,000 amount. he picked a smaller amount. >> "we've got to have a will. we've got to have a will. we've got to have a will." >> and then there was that will that tom was allegedly so eager to get on paper. >> it wasn't tom who made the appointment with the attorney. juanita purchased that will. she made the appointment with the attorney. she went to that the appointment with tom. >> so if this post-juanita
financial plan was the prosecution's fantasy, what about that other woman, kelli brophy? >> it was the prosecutor's number one motive to support her motive of the case. >> what was the evidence? >> there wasn't any, zero. >> did you ever have sex with tom? >> no. >> did you ever kiss him? >> no. >> ever hold hands? >> no. >> did he ever tell you that he was going to leave his wife for you? >> no. >> as for that mysterious double bruise on juanita's thigh, newmanen had an explanation. it came not from tom but from juanita's fall. under cross-examination, the coroner himself conceded that was possible. >> but that injury certainly, there's a possibility it could occur during the fall. >> could you tell us your name? >> for tom's case, the defense had three star witnesses who knew tom better than anyone, his kids. >> just describe your dad for us, if you could. >> my dad is a very honest and trustworthy person. he had such good morals. >> how valuable were the kids?
>> it would have been a wholly different trial if the kids were sitting on the other side of the courtroom, but they weren't. they were supporting their dad, because they know their dad and know that he could never do anything like this to their mom. >> tom richardson never did take the stand in his own defense, but did he talk to "dateline" in the jail where he had been held for more than a year. what happened that day at pictured rocks? >> this is going to be difficult. it's a hard thing to re-live. she said she was going to sit there while i went back to the bathroom. when i came back, she was facing me. juanita looked at me with a smile. but juanita has a glowing smile, but as she turned, she fell, and the last thing i saw was juanita's feet flip up in the air as she was going over. and i heard her scream, "oh, my god" or "oh dear god," and i heard her scream as she fell down, and that's when i lost my
wife, and i have nightmares of that on a regular basis. >> it's essentially the same version of the third story he told deputy steve blank nearly two years earlier. what did you do after juanita fell? >> i crawled over to the edge and looked over the edge. and i could see the white of her sweater. and i had tears pouring out of my eyes. i'm afraid of heights, so i can't stand at the edge. i crawled over to the edge and looked over, and backed away and passed out. >> tom went on to recount seeing juanita's body at the hospital. >> they put me in a wheelchair, and they wheeled me in right up to her face. they hadn't cleaned the blood off or anything. she was covered with sheets and they had her face exposed but wrapped around with white linen.
and they wheeled me up to her, and i just saw her broken -- broken battered face. and she was gone. >> in our interview, tom was doing exactly the same thing park rangers observed the day juanita died, as he went back and forth from emotional to emotionless. do you understand how telling essentially three different stories to investigators in the first few hours after your wife dies is going to make investigators think that you are, a, lying, and b, responsible? >> yeah, i understand that. but your facts aren't straight. we're not talking a few hours. we're talking from the time the incident happened until 1:30,
2:00 in the morning. that's not a few hours. >> okay, what is it, less than 24. >> it's a long time when you're in shock, you're being traumatized. >> it's a pretty short time to tell three different stories. >> not when you've been going through mental blocking and then you're starting to get recall and you got some guy that you feel is trying to brainwash you into the fact that your wife's just committed suicide or possibly committed suicide. >> and what about kelli brophy, tom's so-called prayer pal that the prosecutor branded as his amber frey? so people who think that you were envisioning some possible relationship with kelli after your wife died, just overly suspicious? >> just wrong. i was not planning on killing my wife. my wife and i were getting along as good as we ever got along, and there was no plan. they've tried to paint that into
this plan i had, you know, he planned on killing his wife. he planned on having a relationship with kelli, blah, blah, blah. none of that's true. >> so what is true? is tom richardson a cold-hearted killer or just a broken-hearted husband? >> i was with juanita since 1981. and when you lose somebody like that, it's like you have this big hole in the side of you. and nothing will ever replace that. >> it would now be up to the jury to decide his fate. coming up -- a dramatic demonstration as jurors try to figure out what caused that mysterious bruise on juanita's leg. >> everybody was at the same point in thinking that oh, my god, that's probably exactly what happened.
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when juanita richardson died on the cliffs at pictured rocks, the tragedy didn't end there. the aftermath would tear her family apart. with her parents and sister certain that her husband, tom, had killed her, and her kids just as sure that he didn't. is this family ever going to be put back together? >> i hope so. >> you think it will? >> i guess it depends on what happens for the verdict. >> i'm not sure it does because half this family is not going to like the verdict. >> that's true. >> i hope that one day, you know, we can be back, because i really do, i honestly love them. i may not like them right now or what they're doing, but i will always love them. they're my family. >> now tom richardson's trial was ending. for her closing argument, prosecutor karen bahrmann returned jurors' attention to
the last photograph juanita took before she died. >> a picture that speaks a thousand words. >> of tom himself. he needs to create this reason for her to stand or walk near the edge, and he tells her to take his picture in that spot. and the expression on his face is not exactly evocative of marital bliss. that expression says very clearly, "i'm going to get you, bitch." >> defense attorney carl newmanen ended by "a" denouncing the investigation of tom richardson as a rush to judgment of an innocent man who loved his wife. >> tom richardson was a suspect before they even dragged juanita's body off the rocks and pulled her into the cold water of lake superior. the way the interrogation was conducted was purposely designed to gather incriminating statements. >> the judge handed the case to the jury. on their first vote, they were divided. seven jurors thought tom was guilty. the other five weren't ready to
convict. and they kept returning to that autopsy photo of juanita with the strange double bruise. and then an extraordinary thing happened in the jury room. jurors paul scott and dave brame got up and decided to see what might cause a bruise like that. can you show me what you did? >> all i did was come behind him and the bruises were on her right leg and i just pushed like this, that's when he went forward. i didn't actually even kick. i just pushed with my foot. >> and that did it, that demonstration? >> it almost made the hair stand up on the back of your neck that everybody was at the same point in thinking that, oh, my god that's probably exactly what happened. >> after 11 hours, they had their verdict. >> counsel, please rise. >> we the jury find the defendant, thomas david richardson, guilty of murder in the first degree. >> thank you. you may be seated. >> tom richardson had been found
guilty of murdering his wife, juanita, with a mandatory sentence of life in prison. the richardson kids sat in shock and in tears. the tragedy at pictured rocks had now taken both their parents away from them forever. a month later, juanita's sister, jeannette, spoke for her family at the sentencing. >> two years ago, you chose to take her from us. not only did you take our daughter, our sister, and our aunt, but you also took the mother from your very own children. >> tom has filed an appeal. he remains defiant. >> the truth is the truth. and making me a villain doesn't change anything. >> we've been through a trial. don't we know the truth? >> no. >> isn't the truth that you killed your wife? >> no, that is not the truth. >> because you didn't want a divorce, because you wanted to live debt-free with kell
kelli brophy. >> debt-free living has nothing to do it and neither does living with kelli brohy. there is no romantic relationship with kelli brophy, period, there never has been. >> you killed her. >> no, i did not kill my wife. you have no idea how offensive it is to hear somebody say that when you didn't do it. >> but for juanita's parents and sister, the case is closed. just before tom was sentenced, jeannette went back up to pictured rocks to listen to the wind one last time. >> i feel like juanita's there and i don't want to leave, i don't want to go home. today the waves were just splashing and it was beautiful. and last night, the rainbow over pictured rocks just told us, you know, she's saying i'm okay. i'm good. i'm in better hands now.