Supporters of Robert Richardson III, the Bel Air teenager accused of murdering his father, are gearing up to support him during an upcoming court hearing in Bel Air next week.
His friends and family members will rally outside the Harford County Circuit Courthouse, on Bel Air's Main Street, at 3 p.m. next Wednesday, an hour before Richardson is scheduled to have a hearing involving a pre-trial motion in his case, according to one of the rally's organizers.
Richardson has been in jail, held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center, for more than year after he was arrested and charged as an adult with first degree murder in the Jan. 9, 2012 shooting death of his father, Robert C. Richardson Jr. The younger Richardson, who was 16 at the time of the killing, turned 17 in September.
Police say the shooting occurred in the family's home on Moores Mill Road in Bel Air. The dead man's body was found the following morning on the edge of a pond at a relative's home in Aberdeen.
Richardson's new public defender, Kay Beehler, asked in November to be allowed to have regular visits with him at the jail.
A request filed with the Circuit Court asks for defense counsel to have "regular face-to-face visits with the juvenile defendant" because of the "extraordinary circumstances of this case."
"Defense Counsel shall provide no less than 24 hours notice to the staff of the Harford County Detention Center when visits with Robert C. Richardson will be scheduled," the request states.
The detention center must provide counsel with permission via fax and must allow face-to-face contact with no physical impediments, according to the request.
Richardson's case is assigned to Judge Stephen Waldron. Thursday afternoon, Waldron's secretary confirmed Thursday afternoon the hearing on the public defender's visitation request is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. next Wednesday.
Previously, Richardson's lawyers had sought unsuccessfully to have his case returned to juvenile status.
On Nov. 9, Harford Chief Administrative Judge William Carr said he had "no authority to transfer a case to Juvenile Court for an individual charged with first-degree murder."
Eileen Siple, of Bel Air, one of the organizers of next week's rally, said Richardson continues to receive support of many people.
"While we do not condone killing, it is our belief that this tragedy would not have occurred, if 'the system' had worked as it should have," Siple wrote in an e-mail about the rally.
"As adults, it is our job to look out for the children, and somehow this boy was overlooked," she added.
"As a group, we have continued to support Bob during the past year," the e-mail continued. "We regret that we did not know of Bob's plight prior to January of last year. While we were unable to help him during those years, we have come forward to help him since the tragedy occurred. We regret that he is charged as an adult, as we believe his case belongs in the juvenile courts, and we are horrified by the situations he has had to endure since his arrest, i.e. 10 months of segregation within the Harford County Detention Center, simply because the facility is not set up to handle juveniles."
In a follow-up phone interview Thursday, Siple said her daughter started a Facebook page to support Richardson shortly after his arrest.
"I think we all believe pretty strongly that he was abused very seriously and that he tried to get out. He tried to escape, and the system didn't work for him," Siple said, calling the incident self-defense and not murder.
"There were people who knew what was going on and nobody helped," she said.
She explained that Richardson, who was a freshman at C. Milton High School, was regularly running away or seen with black eyes.
"We are saying very strongly that the system failed him and this was absolutely an unnecessary event," she said. "He was a scared kid and unfortunately, now he is an even more scared kid."
"If you look at his photo, he looks like a terrified little kid," she continued. "He is a good kid. He is not a murderer."