First Person: 'I will spend the rest of my life in prison'

Tom Richey, 39

In 1987, Scottish ex-pat Tom Richey pleaded guilty in America to shooting two people while high on LSD. Now serving life for murder, Richey explains the effect his sentence had on his relationship with his father.



I know dad blamed himself for my predicament. I think every parent with a son or daughter in prison blames themselves and wonders where they went wrong. But I never blamed my dad for what I did, I blame myself. I ingested LSD. I carried a gun. And I pulled the trigger.

I received a sentence of 65 years, and soon found myself drowning in a foreign prison environment, thrashing to keep my head above it all, especially after the Washington officials denied my application for transfer to a Scottish jail.

I lost hope. I think my dad sensed this, so made the decision to travel 2,000 miles from Ohio, where he lived, to Washington State. He settled in Washington to be near me, always ready to accept my phone calls or to visit. I certainly didn't deserve his loyalty because I destroyed the promise he invested in me when I insanely destroyed the lives of others. But he stuck by me anyway, and he rescued me from being smothered by the American prison culture, from being isolated thousands of miles from home. He saw in me what others didn't, and he nurtured that, gave me encouragement and direction. He became a great father, and along the way, he became my best friend.

Dad died on 8 April 2009. His death wasn't unexpected. He'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. But I'd seen him fade a few years before the cancer.

Before he moved to Washington State, dad would drive five hours to visit me in prison at least half a dozen times a year, and each time he came, I saw less of him. Old age rusted the spring in his step, and it began to dismantle his memory, his quick wit, and sometimes his eyes showed the growing fear of a man who knew age was slowly ravaging him, taking away his capacity to live, to be the man he was.

Dad was never afraid to show his emotions, and always at the end of our visits, his eyes would soften with moisture, and I'd see the longing of a father who wished he could walk his son out that prison gate with him. I'd hug him tight, wishing I could go, wishing I could relieve his pain.

As the years passed, and I struggled to prove myself as a writer against a wall of publisher bias, I became discouraged and considered giving it all up. But dad confided that he wanted to hold a book I'd written in his hands before he died. If I achieved nothing else in life, I at least wanted to fulfil that dream for him, this man who sacrificed so much to move to Washington to save his drowning son.

Finally, in 2005, my book about my brother, who is on Death Row, was published: Kenny Richey – Death Row Scot. I remember the pride swelling from my dad when he visited after receiving a copy of the book. He looked upon me with a look I'd never seen before. Admiration. I was a grown man but felt like a boy again, awash in my dad's favour. A son can know no better feeling than that.

But I know dad harboured another dream. He wanted to see me free. Neither of us said so, but we both knew he'd never be alive to witness my freedom. Time wasn't on our side. We last spoke on 4 April. It was a Saturday morning. Our conversation was brief, he told me he loved me, and that we'd said everything we wanted to. I could hear him struggle to push his words out. I told him not to worry about me, that I wouldn't give up; he'd prepared me well for life ahead.

On 9 April, I lost my best friend. I lost my anchor. I miss my dad, but I also embrace the world alone with the tools that he left me.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker