General Crime

California Death Row Inmate Charles Keith Richardson Dies of Natural Causes



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Death row inmate Charles Keith Richardson, 52, one of two men found guilty in the rape and murder of 11-year-old April Holley in Tulare County, has died.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation made the announcement Tuesday. He died of natural causes at the treatment center at Corcoran State Prison.

Richardson was sentenced to death in 1992 and had been on death row at San Quentin State Prison, but he was transferred to Corcoran because it has a licensed medical treatment facility for maximum security inmates, deputy press secretary Terry Thornton said.

April’s murder on Dec. 3, 1988, was one of the most notorious crimes in Tulare County history.

Tammy Holley, April’s sister, was 20 when April was killed.

“Hallelujah, thank you God,” Holley said when she learned that Richardson had died.

She said she thinks of April often: “It hurts today, like the day I lost my sister.”

Retired Tulare County District Attorney Phillip Cline prosecuted the case against Richardson when he was assistant district attorney.

“It was a notorious case and a difficult case, but justice was done in this case,” Cline said.

The California Supreme Court upheld the death penalty sentence against Richardson in 2008.

April’s body was found in the family’s squalid home in Matheny Tract by Roger Rummerfield, a friend of the family who went to the Holley home to use the bathroom. He testified that she was clothed only with a shirt and her face was partially covered with water.

She had been raped, sodomized and killed by drowning, medical experts testified.

“She was a nice little girl,” Rummerfield said Tuesday from his home in Modesto. “She had her whole life taken from her. She didn’t do anybody any wrong.”

Richardson abruptly left the area but was arrested about a week later.

If April were alive today, she would be 37. Her mother, Naomi, died five years ago.

In 1996, Steven Allen Brown, 46, a co-conspirator, was sentenced to death in the case and is on death row. In June, the California Supreme Court upheld the death penalty against Brown.

Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 66 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri and six have died from other causes. There are 749 people on California’s death row.

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