When Dan Richards went searching for his biological father and found a murderer serving life in prison who was on the verge of being paroled, he alerted the murder victim’s family and friends about the parole decision and about his father’s pending release from prison.
Now the murderer’s son and a friend of the victim’s family who lived in Frazier Park, are sending letters to Gov. Gavin Newsom urging that he block the parole decision when the case lands on his desk in the next few months for final review.
“When I read about my father’s pending prison release I asked myself: ‘I wonder if the (murder victim’s) family knows about this crap?’” Dan Richards said this week, noting he plans to write a letter to Newsom urging the governor to keep his father behind bars.
The convicted murderer is Richard Donald Richards, 69.
Richards stepped inside his cell at the California State Prison in Solano on May 13, 1998, and began serving a life sentence — with possibility of parole — for second-degree murder and use of a firearm.
Suitable for parole?
In a hearing March 7 at the prison, Richard Donald Richards was found suitable for parole by the Board of Parole Hearings, said Ike Dodson, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Since then, parole officials have been carrying out a 120-day review, analyzing legal details and factors leading to the decision to release him.
If the decision stands, the matter is then sent to office of the governor, who will have up to 30 days to review.
During this 30-day window of opportunity, Dan Richards and Cathleen Wright Templeman, formerly of Frazier Park, a close friend of the Clark family who now lives in Lakewood, hope to convince the governor to keep Richard Donald Richards in prison.
Templeman was in court shoulder-to-shoulder with Clark family members the day Richards was sentenced to life.
“Any parole decision granting parole goes up to the governor for review,” Templeman said this past week. “(Gov. Newsom) can still block his release.”
Two decades ago, Curtis Clark lived on a sparse isolated homestead with his family in a house on top of a desolate mountain in Frazier Park, near Lebec.
He allowed his lifelong friend, Richard Donald Richards, of Castaic, to live there for a while.
“The Clarks lived a secluded life,” said Templeman. “They were not survivalists at all.
“It was Curt’s goal to live a ‘homestead’ self-sufficient life. They’re a very kind-hearted family and perhaps naive about Rick’s true character.”
Templeman, who said she’s known the Clark family since 1990, described “Curt” as “very easy-going and would have done anything for anyone.”
On Sunday June 1, 1997, the two men got into an argument.
Richards shot Clark multiple times in the torso and fled.
According to a sheriff’s deputy quoted by The Signal in 1997, Richards surrendered to Tulare County Sheriff’s Department deputies after he dumped Clark’s body about 6 a.m. Sunday, June 1, 1997, and then drove to Porterville, where he confessed.
Soon after the murder, the Richards family fled their home in Castaic and moved to Huntington Beach with the help of her boss, Templeman said.
The incident came flooding back to Templeman six months ago when news of another Clark family tragedy emerged in the SCV.
Christopher “Critter” Clark, 39, of Woodland Hills, went missing July 24, 2018.
On Aug. 31, a car belonging to Chris Clark was found abandoned outside the Black Bear Diner.
It was the first indication as to Clark’s whereabouts since July 24, 2018, when Clark had contacted his family in Reseda. Since then, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound man, with a 1-inch scar on the back of his head, has not been seen.
“Why the car was there, we do not know,” Detective Maria Palmer with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit said in September, noting the car was impounded.
When Dan Richards, of Huntington Beach, searched online for any information about his biological father, he found him mentioned in The Signal story about the missing Chris Clark.
He then tracked his father to the prison in Solano.
Last week, he revisited the prison website for any updates and learned about his father’s parole hearing and his pending release from prison.
“As soon as I saw the update, I called the parole board,” Dan Richards said. “They told me they’re going to watch him for awhile.”
If approved, the parole decision is still upheld after 120 days of scrutiny, “It goes to the governor’s office for final approval.”
Opposing the parole
Dan Richards then reached out to the Clark family and to Templeman.While he begins writing his letter to the governor, Templeman is reviewing a draft of her letter already written.
Her letter states, in part:
“I am writing to oppose the parole and release of murderer Richard Donald Richards. Richards pleaded guilty in 1997 to second-degree murder and admitted to killing Lebec father of five and lifelong friend, Curtis Clark, by shooting him five times at close range. Mr. Clark was unarmed.
“Richards has never shown any remorse for his crime and had nothing to say to the family at his sentencing.
“The day before the killing, Clark asked Richards to leave the family home where he had been allowed to stay for two years.
“Richards was accused of physically assaulting Clark’s youngest daughter. Richards then drove up a winding, desolate, mountain dirt road to confront Clark at his residence.
“Clark answered the door and told Richards to leave his property. Richards then shot Clark.”
Continue to suffer
Templeman also tells the governor in her letter of how the Clark family continued to suffer.
“The family unit was shattered and disintegrated. Clark’s middle son, Christopher, went missing in the summer of 2018 and still has not been found,” she said.
She ends her letter, saying: “The Clark family is devastated at the prospect of Richards, a man who is capable of callously killing his best friend… being released into society.”