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Decades After Paxton Police Chief's Murder, Man Faces Parole Board

A man convicted in the 1994 murder of a police chief was met with strong opposition when he went before the Massachusetts Parole Board Thursday.

Jamie Richards, 45, was one of three men imprisoned for the murder of Paxton Police Chief Robert Mortell in Holden. After waiving his right to a parole hearing five years ago, Richards came to ask for some leniency.

"I think it's a horrible thing. No one should be murdered, whether it's a police chief or not," he stated.

But the rest of the hearing lacked a show of remorse, according to board members. They criticized Richards for declining to make an apology to the family, as well as for showing little accountability.

"I haven't heard the apology. And I'm a little confused as to why we are sitting here," said board member Paul Tressler.

Over the course of the hearing, Richards became combative with members, refusing to answer some questions and taking offense to others. When they inquired whether he had prepared for the hearing at all, Richards simply said "no." He also told the board that he did not feel prepared for living back on the streets, citing a lack of support.

"If this is who you are today, I have concerns about who you're going to be out in the community," said board member Lucy Soto-Abbe.

During public testimony, several local and state police members spoke in opposition to Richards' release. Joining them in their efforts was Mortell's daughter, who was 11 when he died.

"We are sitting here because of his actions," said Erin Mortell, one of three children her father left behind.

While she had prepared written remarks, she told the board that Richards' attitude throughout the hearing had struck a nerve.

"He's coming in here like it's a field trip," she said. "I don't know how you can expect this man to go into society, hold a job, show any respect for anybody besides himself."

In his own defense, Richards said the crowded hearing room made him nervous, which is why he declined to make a public apology. He also stated that he felt as though he was being punished for the crimes of one of his co-defendants, Michael Souza, the man who fired the deadly shot.

"Your whole life, you're told you're responsible for your own actions, until somebody else does something that's bad," Richards explained. "Now, I'm responsible for that, as well."

The argument did not sit well with Worcester Country District Attorney Joseph Early, who criticized Richards following the hearing.

"He came in here defiant, argumentative, taking no ownership over anything," Early said. "This would be the last guy in the world that should ever be paroled, and the family should not be going through this."

Richards' co-defendants in the case are still imprisoned. Souza, who was 25 at the time of the killing, was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A third defendant, Kenneth N. Padgett Jr., 22 at the time of the killing, was convicted of second-degree murder and became eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison. Padgett's request for parole was denied.

In Richards' case, the board will make a decision within two to six months.

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