Death Row Scot: Innocent Or Guilty? | The Kenny Richey Story: Part One

(Kenny Richey, through the years. The picture on the left is a most recent one. Photo credit:

When I first started writing about true crime cases, Kenny Richey was one of the first people I thought of writing about but I shied away from it because as you will see if you choose to continue reading, this is not a simple, run of the mill story.

I was living in Scotland when I saw a documentary about Kenny, many years ago and I remember reading about his story in the newspapers. In Scotland, we were shocked that 'one of our own' was all the way in America sitting on Death Row. What could this man have possibly done to have ended up in this position? This man who seemed to come across as likable, witty with a thick Edinburgh accent and proclaiming his innocence? 

There's a lot of people in prison and on Death Row who proclaim to be innocent so to some people, Kenny was no different and to others who had researched his case believed he was 100% innocent and campaigned for his release. He had support from actress Susan Sarandon and even the Pope. So if he was innocent and had notable names demanding he be released, why was he on Death Row? Well, I'm going to go way back and share with you what happened in the early hours of the 30th of June 1986 in Columbus Grove, Ohio as well as Kenny's life before and after 1986.

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Let's begin....

Kenny Thomas Richey was born in Zeist, Netherlands on the 3rd of August 1964. His father was American and his mother was Scottish. He spent his early years with his brother Tom in Edinburgh, Scotland. When his parents split up, he and his brother Tom decided to move over to live in Ohio in America to be near their father in 1982.

Kenny joined the Marines for some time and the move to America was supposed to be an exciting fresh start full of new opportunities but things soon turned sour. Tom ended up in prison for committing a murder whilst he was high on LSD. He had been sentenced to 65 years in prison and nearly ended up on Death Row had he not have pleaded guilty. Tom maintains that he wasn't in control of his actions at the time of the murder and later, he would write a book about his elder brother's case 

After his stint in the Marines, Kenny moved to the Old Farm Village apartment complex in Columbus Grove in Ohio where he had a brief relationship with a woman by the name of Candy Barchet who was also a neighbour. The relationship was a fiery one with the couple often having arguments. Kenny also had a short fuse and liked to drink. 

Allegedly (according to the prosecution), On June the 29th 1986 (and going into the early hours of the 30th) Kenny knew that Candy and her new boyfriend were together in her apartment and this angered (especially as she had already openly kissed her new boyfriend in front of him and many of the other residents at a party earlier that evening) him so much that he sought revenge by setting fire to the apartment above in an attempt for the floorboards to collapse on top of them. This apartment belonged to a single mother by the name of Hope Collins and her 2 year old daughter Cynthia. Some people claim that Kenny had a brief relationship with Hope at some point and others say they didn't. People who knew Hope claimed that she often neglected her young daughter. She would give Cynthia sleeping tablets, leave her alone unsupervised in the apartment for hours at a time and left boxes of matches around the house which Cynthia would play with. The little girl had already accidentally started three fires in the house and seemed to have a fascination with fire. Despite this, Hope continued to be careless where her daughter was concerned. 

Hope wasn't in her apartment that night as she had been at a neighbours party and left with a boyfriend and went to his place. She told Kenny that he could stay at her house and that Scootie (her nickname for Cynthia) would be there sleeping in bed, she told him not to lock the door as she didn't have a key (Hope would later be charged with involuntary manslaughter for her actions that night. She served a total of 45 days in prison). 

There were witnesses that claim that Kenny had been upset about the situation with Candy but had accepted that the relationship was now over. That night he was dressed in his Marine Corps camouflage fatigues and combat boots. His right hand was bandaged up in a splint. Another ''witness'' claimed during the trial that Kenny told him ''If I can't have her (Candy), nobody else can.''. 

Kenny was also allegedly overheard saying that he was going to make sure the section of building where Candy lived was gong to burn down that night and was threatening to blow the place up and was bragging about how he had learnt how to deal with explosives when he was in the Marines.

At 4:15am, neighbours could smell smoke and witnessed flames coming out of Hope's apartment, they contacted the fire department and emergency services straight away. When one of the firemen arrived he did what he could to search the apartment to try and find Cynthia but the heat and smoke was too strong for him to be able to carry on further. More firemen arrived and they were able to work together to remove Cynthia's body from the burning apartment. The little girl was sadly deceased and had died from asphyxia from breathing in the thick smoke.

(Left: Kenny Richey on Death Row. Top Right: Cynthia Collins. Bottom Right: The apartment where the fire took place. Photo credit:

Some of the firemen reported later that Kenny had arrived at the scene and had been shouting ''There's a child in there'' whilst trying to push past the firemen to get inside the apartment. 

A witness reported that Kenny looked at the apartment as it was burning and said ''It looks like I did a hell of a job, doesn't it'' before drinking a can of beer and laughing. Kenny denies making this statement or laughing.

Earlier that evening, Kenny had offered to steal some plants from a greenhouse for a neighbour but she told him not to do it. He had taken some plants from that greenhouse before and during their investigation they found some of these missing plants outside of Candy's front door. The owner of the greenhouse identified that the plants were his and that he also had a shed which contained paint thinner and gasoline which was always unlocked. He had no idea if any of the gasoline or paint thinner had been taken.

During the investigation pieces of carpet from the apartment had been tested and it was determined that an accelerant had been used. There was controversy later because the samples of carpet had been kept in a parking lot which was 40 feet away from petrol pumps for three weeks. Some wood chip from Hope's apartment wasn't properly tested until later on. 

The police suspected Kenny from the beginning and arrested him. Kenny told the police he had no idea how the fire started but he told them that he'd been getting drunk and had been at his father's apartment. He told the police that he didn't remember very much and couldn't recall the conversation with Hope about staying at her place but he did admit knowing that Cynthia was in the apartment and said that he did check in on her at one point.

Kenny started to make threats about the prosecutor Randy Basinger saying that he was a dead man and that he would seek revenge on anyone who testified against him. He told a Deputy to tell Randy Basinger that when he got out of prison he was going to cut his throat. None of these statements helped Kenny's case nor did his attitude and behaviour. He wrote a letter to a friend in Scotland whilst he was in pre-trial custody and bragged that the American police didn't scare him. He also wrote that they better put him behind bars because he would hunt down every single person who was responsible for sending him to prison.

Mental health professionals had declared that Kenny had a serious of mental health problems which included: Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Histrionic Behaviour Disorder. One of the psychologist claimed that Kenny tried to manipulate the results of the tests but did confirm that Kenny's family background had been chaotic, violent and there was a history of drug abuse. He described Kenny's behaviour as often erratic and impulsive. Very much an individual with a short fuse but he didn't believe him to be psychotic.

Kenny would often self harm and the psychologists who examined him revealed that his body was covered in cuts and scars which they estimated to be around 600. He'd also attempted suicide a few times. It was also revealed that Kenny had problems with erratic behaviour from a young age and was first taken to see a psychiatrist at the age of 13.

Kenny continued to proclaim his innocence and even rejected a plea deal before his trial which would have seen him serve just 11 years and four months which would have seen him being released in the year 2000. He remained adamant that he did not cause the fire that killed Cynthia, he wanted to fight to clear his name. He was also offered a transfer to a Scottish prison for a lesser sentence, he refused it all. He felt confident that he would be found not guilty.

The trial and investigation was hit by a number of errors, including witnesses changing statements, mishandling of evidence and documents, areas where there was no evidence to present.

As I mentioned before, there was quite a number of people who supported Kenny and believed in his innocence after they had done their own research into the case. These campaigners pointed out some discrepancies such as:

- Kenny was alleged to have thrown petrol or pain stripper all over the carpets yet none of these liquids were found on his clothing.

- The previous visits by the fire department to Hope's apartment (three times less than a fortnight before the fire) after accidental fires set off by Cynthia, was not revealed to the defence,

- Kenny had a plaster case on his hand after he had broken it a week before the fire. Another witness said that they saw Kenny collapse in the bushes drunk and if Kenny was heavily drunk, how would he manage to carry everything out, especially as he would have to carry two petrol cans and jump up onto a shed. Being drunk and trying to manage carrying the cans would have caused a lot of noise but nobody heard a thing.

- One of the investigators of the fire believed that the fire had been started accidentally and it was revealed that vital evidence was removed from the scene.

- Kenny stated numerous times that he wanted to take a lie detector test but Judge Randall Basinger refused.

Around this time, Judge Randall Basinger was hoping to be up for election and this case drew a lot of publicity which he seemed to lap up and enjoyed having his name splashed across the newspapers. He seemed to be more interested in fame, getting himself across and aimed to stitch Kenny up as the fall guy.

Judge Randall Basinger was determined to see Kenny go down for murder and sought the death penalty.

Continued in part two...

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1 comment:

  1. Why would he start a fire knowing that the child was in the flat and trying to run in to get to the child well written agen hun. I will read part two later. ❤️🌹❤️🌹❤️🌹❤️🌹☕☕☕☕☕☕