BEFORE THE FALL
William Richards was born in Chicago in 1949. His father was an engineer with the Defense Department and his mother was a registered nurse who held a doctorate. Raised in a middle-class household the middle of three brothers, Richards displayed an early affinity for science. His family owned a modest cottage in the Michigan woodlands, where he developed a lifelong love of the outdoors. Understandably, Richards romanticizes that era.
“Muscle cars with big engines prowled the highways,” he writes. “Rock ‘n’ roll, free love were new to the world.”
Despite a proclivity to form black-and-white judgments, Richards is endowed with a supple intelligence and is highly analytical. He’s loquacious by nature. In fact, as part of his 2009 parole risk assessment, a licensed psychologist remarked that Richards “tended to relate in a somewhat detailed manner with excessive information but this may be consistent with the engineer-type mentality.” Over a 20-year career as a mechanical engineer, he worked for three companies. All the while, however, he handpicked equipment and tools in order to achieve the goal of eventually launching a small business as an engineering and fabrication contractor.
During Richards’ sophomore year at a now-defunct Midwestern college in 1969, he was introduced to Pam through a girlfriend. First drawn to her smile, there was an instant attraction. They wed after dating two years. Richards reminisces that her best quality was her generous heart. She was his best friend. As a couple, they belonged to two social circles: One group met for social get-togethers while the other engaged in outdoor activities. Fred Quaas, a mutual friend during a portion of those years, describes their bond. “You just liked them,” he recalls. “They were definitely a unit. They weren’t co-dependent, but they preferred to be with each other…They were the kind of people you could have in-depth conversations with.” Richards has stated that they were unable to have children.
The Richardses maintained an outdoorsy lifestyle. Monthly group campouts and shooting competitions were the norm. Ultimately, it was their joint dream to build a custom home in the country. They owned quads, all-terrain vehicles, dune buggies and four-wheel drives. Bill Richards belonged to a sportsman’s club approaching 20 years, serving on its board of directors and acting as an event chairman on competitive shoots. He was an avid gun collector and enthusiast as well. More of a recreational shooter, Pam Richards participated in a few events without much zeal for the competitive aspect. However, she was well versed in the use and function of firearms.
Behind closed doors, the couple led a secret life which was withheld from the majority of their acquaintances. Children of the ’60s, at the outset of their relationship they decided to quell temptation by patronizing swinger’s clubs and agreeing to an open relationship. “It’s not as uncommon as it sounds,” Richards confides. It did not seem to take place with any great regularity. On occasion these extramarital trysts occurred separately, but never without the other’s consent. According to Richards, they were always straightforward with each other regarding their liaisons. “It was more of a party-swapping thing,” Quaas recollects. “I never saw it as a negative part of who they were. It just wasn’t something I would choose to do.”
Within this construct, Pam saw George Patrick with her husband’s express permission. Pam even stayed overnight with Patrick at his parents’ residence a few times, according to comments Patrick made to authorities. On one of these sleepovers, Bill actually phoned the Patrick home to communicate an innocuous message to Pam that she needn’t pay a phone bill because he’d already paid it.
“One of the first things he told me was, ‘We had an open relationship,'” relates Hal Smith, Richards’ private defense attorney on the final trial. “He was not ashamed of it; he did not hide it. He wasn’t proud of it; it was just one more fact. That’s how Bill is wired.”