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Berrien County man could be paroled after raping, killing 10-year-old girl

Tommy Richards

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — A judge in southwestern Michigan is expected to decide in November whether a man convicted of murder more than 30 years ago should get a chance at parole because he was 17 at the time of the killing.

Tommy Richards, 49, raped and killed 10-year-old Shimika Hicks in Berrien County in 1987. He then placed her body in garbage bags and dumped it in an abandoned harbor lot. An autopsy ruled Shimika died of suffocation. Richards was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Herald Palladium reported .

Now Richards has a chance to seek resentencing after a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that inmates who were handed life without parole when they were juveniles can be resentenced. Inmates must accept responsibility for their crimes and be capable of rehabilitation.

Richards expressed remorse for his crime during Thursday’s hearing before Berrien County Trial Court Judge Angela Pasula. He addressed Shimika’s sisters and two cousins.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I put you through. I am deeply sorry. There are no excuses for what I did. … I’m still horrified, but I owe Shimika’s family the truth.

“During oral sex I held her head down while she struggled and collapsed,” he said. “I wrapped her head in a plastic bag. I put her body in a bag and placed her in an abandoned lot. She did not deserve to be killed and abandoned. I can’t imagine how scared she was.”

Meanwhile, Shimika’s mother, Fiona Byndum, testified against Richards’ release.

“I want you to do whatever you have to do to keep him in jail,” she told Jeffrey Taylor, chief trial attorney for the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office. “Don’t let him out. Throw away the key.”

Thursday would’ve been Shimika’s 43rd birthday.

Richards’ defense attorney Sofia Nelson said Richards’ home and family environment were “horrific and traumatic.”

“He grew up learning violence, cruelty and criminality,” Nelson said. “What he did was wrong and he knew it, but not the way he knows it today. He was impulsive and selfish.”

She added the evidence of his ability to change is “overwhelming.”

Taylor pushed back saying Richards’s statement wasn’t “sincere” because he only chose to tell the truth when he learned he might have a chance to be released.

“To be quite honest, it’s not sincere,” Taylor said. “He doesn’t mention that her teeth were knocked loose, and that she had a vaginal tear, and that when her body was found her clothes were torn and up around her navel.

“This is a strategy to get out. It’s not sincere.”

Pasula will announce the sentencing decision in November.

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5 comments

  • lml25

    I wrote this under the “Teacher gets 35 years for attempting to coerce a 13 year old to send nude photos”,story:
    “Murderers and drug dealers get 25 years or less–and are released early.Armed robbery –15 years. Coercion and ATTEMPTING to get pictures from a girl,that’s actually an undercover cop ,gets you THIRTY FIVE? Come on.”
    This is a perfect example of the “on the surface” inequity of the teacher’s sentence.Compare the acts of these two deviants and tell me that this is fair for the teacher.

  • Corruption Killer

    Life in prison, and process the fkin 18,000 Master Masons in over 192 Masonic Lodges for their conviction in over 38,000 child rapes discovred by the FBI in the 2010 Shriners Hospitals investigation in Indianaoplis. ALL POS law enforcement are obstructing because at all levels they are some of the actual convicted and members of the organization running our countries larges underage organized philantrophic sex slavery network for as long as they have existed.

  • D

    It does not seem that he has really understands what he did. He wants freedom. If he was sincere and felt pain from what he did, I believe he would be crying and upset when he explained what he REALLY did, and caused. Empathy, he needs to show empathy. I’m sorry he grew up in a terrible home, but it is no excuse for doing what he did. I’ll be afraid for my children and myself if he is released. Please, please see that he does not have the opportunity to do something to someone again. I believe he is still a threat because he did not explain everything he did to her, and that means he has a disconnect regarding this horrific act!

  • D

    It doesn’t seem that he has really understands what he did. He wants freedom. If he was sincere and felt pain from what he did, I believe he would be crying and upset when he explained what he REALLY did, and caused. Empathy, he needs to show empathy. I’m sorry he grew up in a terrible home, but it is no excuse for doing what he did. I’ll be afraid for my children and myself if he is released. Please, please see that he does not have the opportunity to do something to someone again. I believe he is still a threat because he did not explain everything he did to her, and that means he has a disconnect regarding this horrific act!

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