Accused murderer appears in court

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bernard Richards could face life in prison on counts of second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

During a brief appearance in court via closed-circuit television Monday, the accused killer of a 17-year-old Cape Girardeau boy was read his charges and scheduled for a preliminary hearing.

Associate Circuit Judge Gary A. Kamp explained to Bernard "Boo" Richards, 19, of an unknown address, that he is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action for the shooting death last week of Jacob Bowers, 17.

Kamp advised Richards that he could face up to life in prison for both counts if convicted.

A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for 1 p.m. on Feb. 22.

Bowers' body was found around 8:16 p.m. Wednesday behind Du-Shell's Furniture, 2103 William St., in Cape Girardeau. An autopsy showed he died from a single gunshot wound to the torso.

Bowers was at-tempting to rob an acquaintance of Richards at gunpoint during a drug deal when the defendant shot the victim, police said.

In a probable cause statement, Richards was identified as the shooter by two witnesses, one of whom had bought drugs from the defendant at least three times and the other identified as an acquaintance of Richards.

Two other witnesses to the shooting identified a man matching Richards' description as the killer.

Richards told authorities he was with one of the witnesses just before the shooting and was also at the crime scene within minutes of the body being discovered, according to the statement.

After the shooting, Richards and the witness who had been with him ran in different directions, only to meet up less than an hour later and flee to Illinois, the statement read.

Richards was arrested Thursday night and charged on Friday.

Bond for Richards was originally set at $200,000, but was later raised to $1 million at the request of Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, who said the defendant had threatened to kill a witness.

Three weeks before the slaying, Richards was released on a $35,000 bond on charges of drug trafficking and possession of 17 grams of cocaine.

In light of the fact that he was able to secure enough funds to post bond for the drug charges and that authorities were told Richards would be able to post the $200,000, the higher bond was requested.

Witnesses told authorities that Richards had access to several weapons, including grenades and machine guns, Swingle said.

Also on Monday, the public defender's office asked to be relieved from representing Richards on the drug charge because he was able to post bond. In light of his arrest for homicide and subsequent incarceration, that motion was withdrawn.

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