The inmate found dead Monday from an apparent suicide at the Cheshire Correctional Institution was at the center of one of Middletown's best-known and controversial murder cases in 2005.
Philip Richardson, 55, had served nearly 9 years of an 18-year sentence for first-degree manslaughter for the killing of his former lover and roommate at a boarding house near .
It was a hard-fought conviction — on a lesser charge than the original murder charge sought by the state’s attorney — an agonizing concession made necessary after prosecutors realized that the police's delay in discovering the body meant scientists couldn’t present conclusive DNA evidence linking blood from the scene to Farrell, according to archived stories from the Hartford Courant.
Richardson, who was homeless at the time of the crime, was convicted of beating a popular hospital custodian, Bill Farrell, then 51, with an iron and suffocating him to death on April 14, 2005, according to the Courant.
The argument that led to Farrell’s death, according to the Courant, began over $40 worth of marijuana.
Middletown Police, who found the partially decomposed body days later at the 15 Pleasant St., rooming house (now called the "Hogan House"), allegedly ignored a report from another homeless man on the night of April 11, 2005, who said Richardson had asked for his help “cutting up and disposing of the body,” the Courant reported.
“Barker said a city officer at the front desk laughed at him and told him to return to headquarters when he had found a body. Upset that police did not take him seriously, Barker left,” the Courant reported.
An internal police investigation never determined who the sergeant was, the Courant reported.
Because prosecutors were never able to confirm who the desk sergeant was when Andre Barker related his story to police at headquarters, among other reasons, it forced veteran Middlesex State's Attorney Timothy J. Liston, "to do something he has rarely done in his career — reduce a murder charge to manslaughter,” one of the newspaper's stories on the case said.
According to the Courant, “Middletown police's 'mishandling of information in the case,' Liston said, likely resulted in scientists' inability to link incriminating evidence to Richardson, hurting the prosecution's case for murder.”
Richardson was found May 24, 2005, hiding in an apartment in Manchester, N.H., and was arrested, the Courant reported. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in May 2007.
He was sentenced to 18 years in prison and could have been released as early as 2020, the Courant reported. A murder conviction would have landed him in prison for 60 years.
Former Police Chief Lynn Baldoni was heavily criticized for her department's handling of the case, the Courant reported.
An investigation into Richardson’s death is ongoing, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Editor's Note: All newspaper articles reference are available from the Russell Library NewsBank.