A lawyer seeking a new trial for a man convicted in the poisoning deaths of his seven children 21 years ago said Friday he has affidavits from two people who say the youngsters' baby-sitter confessed to the killings.
John Robinson, the lawyer for the father, James Joseph Richardson, called a meeting of townspeople Friday night and read to them from an affidavit prepared by a nursing assistant who cared for the babysitter several years after the deaths.The babysitter, Bessie Reece, 67, now lives in a nursing home in Wauchula and is considered mentally incompetent, Robinson said.
At the time the children, aged 2 to 8, were poisoned in 1967, Reece was serving 20 years probation for the death of her husband, he said.
The nursing assistant, Belinda Romeo, who cared for Reece from January 1985 until May 1987, said in her sworn statement that the elderly woman admitted "hundreds of times" that she poisoned the youngsters.
She quoted Reece as saying: "Yes, I killed those children." But when asked the reason, Reece said: "I don't know why I did it," the affidavit said.
"I was certain she understood my question," Romeo said in her statement, as read by Lane. "She repeatedly admitted to the murders."
Robinson displayed a second affidavit from a witness to the confession that supported Romeo's comments, but he neither read the contents nor identified the witness.
Robinson and Mark Lane, the conspiracy lawyer and author of a book about the murders called "Arcadia," turned the statements over to the DeSoto County authorities as they sought to reopen the case.
"The purpose of this meeting tonight is to gain information," Lane told a standing-room-only crowd in a school gymnasium. "Already, two more people have come forward tonight with more information."
Richardson, 52, is serving 108 years in jail at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach for his conviction in the death of his oldest child. He is eligible for parole in three years.
The seven children died Oct. 25, 1967, after eating a lunch laced with parathion, a pesticide used in citrus groves. Three were at school.
At the trial, prosecutors said Richardson arranged to take out $1,000 in insurance on each child, although he had not paid for the policies at the time of the deaths. Prosecutors also said he had access to the poison.