William Richards

County of Conviction:

Convicted of:





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William Richards was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his wife based on the now-debunked forensic discipline of bitemark evidence. He spent 23 years in prison before his release in 2016.

In the summer of August 10, 1993, tragedy struck the remote desert community of San Bernardino, California. Pamela Richards, living with her husband William “Bill” Richards, was murdered—manually strangled, brutally beaten with rocks, and her skull crushed with a concrete stepping-stone.

The couple, in the process of building their home, temporarily lived in a motorhome, relying on a gasoline-powered generator for power. On that day, neighbors witnessed Bill and Pamela walking hand in hand. Co-workers attested that Bill worked a normal shift, seemingly unaffected by any distress. However, Pamela’s lifeless body would soon be discovered, sending shockwaves through the tight-knit community.

Bill’s narrative of finding Pamela’s half-naked body after midnight sparked a chain of events that would change his life forever. The police, already convinced of Bill’s guilt on their way to the scene, focused solely on extracting a confession. Despite Bill’s lack of defensive injuries and absence of a confession, he became the prime suspect.

Critical errors occurred during the investigation. The crime scene was left unsecured, allowing contamination by roaming dogs, obscuring evidence, and partially burying Pamela. Homicide detectives, arriving hours later in the dark, postponed processing the scene until first light.

Bill’s conviction rested heavily on the prosecution’s claim that no one other than Bill and Pamela were at the crime scene. A blue thread allegedly from Bill’s shirt was found under Pamela’s fingernail and the suggestion of a bite mark matching Bill’s teeth became the prosecution’s pillars. Three trials later, Bill was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Had the police conducted a proper and timely investigation, evidence could have emerged that would have cleared Bill. Bill’s clear timeline and simple time-of-death tests clashed with the prosecution’s assertions. Fingerprinting the property and swabbing the bite mark revealed crucial details ignored by the police.

In 2001, Bill filed a post-conviction DNA testing motion, leading to a revelation that shifted the narrative. DNA evidence on the murder weapons and under Pamela’s fingernails belonged to an unidentified male, the true perpetrator.

Judge Brian McCarville, in a 2009 evidentiary hearing, acknowledged the totality of evidence required a reversal of Bill’s conviction. Experts challenged the bite mark science, questioned missing fiber evidence, and presented the DNA evidence pointing away from Bill.

However, the celebrations were short-lived. The district attorney appealed.  The Court of Appeal reversed Judge McCarville’s decision, and in 2013, the California Supreme Court upheld the reversal.  California Lawyer Magazine considered it the worst decision of the year. The California Innocence Coalition worked to change legislation, allowing experts to recant testimony. On May 26, 2016, the California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, reversed Bill’s conviction.

Bill Richards, after years of legal battles, walked out of the West Valley Detention Center on June 21, 2016. 

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