Richey reveals his suicidal thoughts after death row

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The Independent Online

Kenny Richey, who was released last week after spending 21 years on death row in the US, has said he has considered suicide more often since returning home to Edinburgh than he did during his time in jail.

The 43-year-old, who once came within an hour of execution by electric chair, has spoken movingly of how he feels "left behind" by a world which has "moved on" since he was convicted for the death of a two-year-old girl in an arson attack in Ohio in 1986.

Mr Richey, who was freed on 7 January after a plea deal in which he was not required to admit guilt, told BBC Scotland of the difficulty in fitting into his home country after his ordeal. "So much has changed," he said. "Even the scenery."

Asked about his future, he added: "It's going to be hard for me to adjust back into society. This is a society that has grown up without me... I was left behind, essentially, and it feels like I'm still stuck in 1986."

Mr Richey, who was born in 1964 in the Netherlands to an American father and Scottish mother, grew up in Edinburgh. In 1982 his parents divorced and, aged 18, he moved to Columbus Grove, Ohio, to live with his father. After a stint in the marines and a brief marriage in Minnesota, he returned to Ohio. A few days before he was due to return to Scotland he was arrested over the house fire in which Cynthia Collins died.

Prosecutors claimed Mr Richey, who has always protested his innocence, had started the fire as a jealous attack on his former girlfriend and her lover, who lived in the flat below. He refused a plea bargain which would have led to an 11-year sentence for arson and manslaughter.

Mr Richey said his darkest period had come in the past few days. "It's like I don't belong in this time period – everything has changed, people have changed, everyone has moved on," he said.

Asked if he felt bitter, he said: "They took twenty-one-and-a-half years of my life for something I didn't do, of course I'm bitter. Who wouldn't be?"

Dr Cecilia d'Felice, a leading clinical psychologist and Independent on Sunday columnist, said Mr Richey's state of mind was unsurprising given his ordeal.

"He needs to give himself time," she said. "Every new thing he encounters at home will act as a terrible reminder of all that he has missed out on, and therefore his negative response is understandable...

"He has stepped into what must feel like a circus. He needs time to adjust; it is not surprising he feels more suicidal now... It is like putting a toddler into a school."

Dr d'Felice said "the fact that he was incarcerated and had so little freedom" will have "presented a kind of routine". "Then, to step out of that into the world will be overwhelming and the feeling he won't be able to keep up will make him feel he lacks skills... He must feel like he is freefalling into 2008 from 1986."

However, the psychologist praised Mr Richey for being "very honest" over his admission, and sounded an optimistic note. "In time, he will be able to reconcile those changes and find hope," she said.