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Portola Reporter
Portola , California
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April 15, 2015     Portola Reporter
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April 15, 2015
 

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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, April 15, 2015 1B Clml li soon. Dan McDonald Managing Editor dmcdonald@plumasnews.com s Ed Ward talks about his older sister his smile is laced with tears. It has been 24 years since she died, but his fond memories of Linda are very much alive. "She was the only one of nine kids who didn't have her own children " Ward said, pausing to regain his composure. "But she was the mother to all of our children. "She was the backbone of our family. She was the sunshine." Ward said Linda was always smiling. She was cheerful and happy. She was tender and kind. She was always volunteering to help people. Linda's outlook on life endeared her to the Portola community. Her brother said she saw the best in people. "She was one of the unique humans who tried to trust everyone," Ward said. "That trust probably cost her her life." At 3 a.m. on Dec. 21, 1991, Linda's husband of two years, Robert Richardson, crawled out of the bed they were sharing, grabbed a handgun and shot her in the head while she slept. Linda rolled over and moaned in pain. The bullet through her temple didn't immediately kill her. Richardson grabbed a fish stringer, wrapped it around his dying wife's neck and strangled away the last of her 32-year-old life. He hauled his dead wife outside their Portola home, loaded her in her own vehicle and drove it to a Stockton shopping center. After abandoning the Jeep in the parking lot, Richardson called his girlfriend, Michele Garduno, and had her drive him back to Portola. He tried to cover his crime by disposing of the bloody mattress and sheets at the dump in Calpine. Richardson initially denied killing his wife, before admitting to detectives he did it. He claimed the two had a violent argument before going to bed and he decided "it was either her or me." He told detectives where he took the body and Stockton police found the Jeep with Linda's remains hidden under a sleeping bag. On July 29, 1992, a jury found Richardson guilty of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to 25 This photo of Linda Richardson was taken shortly before she was murdered by her husband, Robert Richardson, in 1991. Linda's family placed this photo on a table so Robert Richardson could see it during his latest hearing before the parole board in February. Photo provided by the Ward family years-to-life in prison. His girlfriend, Garduno, who he later married while behind bars, was found not guilty of accessory after the fact. The murder stunned the community, which is still home to Linda's large extended family. Her family, including her eight brothers and sisters, can never forget the pain they endured just days before Christmas in 1991. "There's not a way for me to tell you what we all Went through," Ward said. "It's just a horrific thing to have happen. "You marry someone you love. You trust to go to bed with them. You trust that that is your safest place. She was betrayed Her safest place became her deathbed." Even if they want to erase the memories of that day, they can't. That's because Richardson has been eligible for parole since 2010. Three times Linda's family has traveled to testify at a parole hearing and re-live the ordeal with the man who murdered her sitting just a few feet away. "It's very stressful," Ward said. "It's hard for me to eat." Ward, who is the Graeagle fire chief and a trained medic, said his blood pressure begins to skyrocket about two weeks before the parole hearing. It remains elevated for another week afterward. He said all the family members feel the high level of anxiety. It's hard to remain composed. "Right before the hearing starts the family starts to fold," Ward said. "I mean there's bickering between " When he gets out it will be like being victimized a second time. It will be like it happened all over again Like he got his way." Ed Ward Linda's Brother all of us. No one is comfortable The stress just builds up." That was the scene in February when eight family members traveled to Folsom Prison for Richardson's latest parole hearing. "Not only do we have to relive everything that happened to Linda, we wonder 'Is this the hearing that he's going to go free?'" According to prison documents, Richardson has been a model prisoner. Ward said he is resigned to the probability that his sister's killer will be released eventually. "And I remind the family of that," Ward said. "It's one of the last things we do before we actually go onto the prison grounds. "We meet in the parking lot and I kind of give, you know, the talk I say 'no matter what happens, we have to be professional'. We all know he is going to get out eventually. And we need to be prepared that this could be the time," Ward said. "But when he gets out it will be like being victimized a second time. It will be like it happened all over again Like he got his way." Richardson didn't get his way in February. His parole was denied. And it could be at least another couple years before his next hearing. Ward said the February hearing was different than the last two. He said not only did Richardson tell the board he had been planning the murder with his girlfriend for six months -- information that could further incriminate him-- the Ward family was bolstered by a surprise appearance by Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister. No Plumas district attorneys had attended the previous hearings; and the Ward family didn't expect the DA's support this time, either. In fact, when they saw him at the hearing, they didn't know who he was. "When (Hoilister) introduced himself and told us he was the DA from Plumas County, it was a big relief," Ward said. "It took a load off us because we realized this wasn't just on our shoulders. He had a huge impact with his presence there:" Hollister said it was important to him to be there. "I have always felt that one of our responsibilities is we see cases through to the end," Hollister said. "And the idea that the victim's family would have to go through this themselves was something that shouldn't have to happen." Hollister said that not attending the hearing would have sent a message to the parole board that the DA's office didn't care if Richardson was paroled. "That certainly wasn't something that I believed," Ho]lister said. "I thought, particularly in this case, when this guy got a life sentence, it really ought to be life. "He really hurt a family. He took the life of, what looks to me like, this just wonderf person. She was a very vibrant and important part of the family and the community." More inmates being released "When I was trying cases in Alameda County I was able to tell people: 'Here's the deal, this guy's going to get life: And life means life. See Parole, page 16B