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Scotland native to be retried in death of girl



Published: Fri, July 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Prosecutors want to retry Kenneth Richey, who was convicted of murder.

TOLEDO (AP) -- A Scotland native whose death penalty conviction was overturned after 18 years on Ohio's death row will face a new attempt to be charged in the death of a 2-year-old girl, a county prosecutor said Thursday.

The decision means that Kenneth Richey, who has U.S.-British citizenship, likely will remain in jail while the prosecutor seeks a new trial.

Supporters in Britain have campaigned for his release after documentary filmmakers raised numerous inconsistencies surrounding the case and investigation.

Richey's story drew the attention of the prime minister of England and the support of Pope John Paul II.

Putnam County Prosecutor Gary Lammers said he thinks there is enough evidence to seek new charges against Richey and that he will ask a grand jury to return indictments against him.

The case

Richey, who grew up in Scotland and became a British citizen while in prison, was convicted of setting a fire that killed the girl on June, 30, 1986, in the northwest Ohio town of Columbus Grove.

Prosecutors said he started the fire to get even with his former girlfriend, Kandice Barchet, who lived below. The toddler who lived upstairs, Cynthia Collins, died.

Lammers spoke with investigators, witnesses and the girl's family before deciding to seek new charges.

"We cannot forget Cynthia Collins," he said. "I cannot ignore the facts and cruel acts which led to the death of this child."

Richey has maintained he's innocent and turned down an offer to plead guilty to murder -- a deal that would have allowed him to be out of prison by now. He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death.

He came within an hour of being executed 10 years ago and was down to his final appeals when a federal appeals court in January ruled 2-1 that Richey received incompetent legal counsel.

The court ordered the state to retry him or release him. State prosecutors fighting Richey's release plan to appeal that court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Uncertain evidence

The appeals court's ruling said Richey's lawyers hired an unqualified forensic expert to investigate the fire and did not adequately challenge the state's handling of the investigation.

"Absent counsel's grave mistakes, there is a reasonable probability that the three-judge panel would have at least had a reasonable doubt as to whether Richey set the fire," the court said.

Richey came to northwest Ohio in the early 1980s to live with his American-born father. He bounced from job to job and liked to drink and hang out with residents at an apartment complex on the edge of Columbus Grove.

The fire that killed the toddler broke out following a party at the apartment building.

Two filmmakers produced documentaries questioning whether authorities thoroughly investigated the fire. They cited, among other things, that Richey's hand was in a cast yet the prosecutor said he climbed a tool shed and a balcony while carrying cans filled with the fuel for the fire.

Before the films, few people in Britain had heard of Richey. However, outrage grew as newspapers questioned his imprisonment and death sentence.

Pope John Paul wrote a letter backing his cause, and 150 members of the British Parliament signed a motion backing Richey's claim of innocence after Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to look into the case.




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