A tip on Valentine’s Day about a size 11, khaki-colored Crocs shoe led to Saturday’s arrest of a Northland man in the murders of two women and, according to police, foiled a potential serial killer.
By CHRISTINE VENDEL and DONALD BRADLEY
The Kansas City Star
Derek Richardson, 27, of Kansas City, North, was arrested during a car stop shortly before noon in the Northland. During six hours of questioning, he told police “in great detail” how he killed Tamara R. Sparks, 40, and Nicoleone M. Reed, 24, during sex acts and left their bodies by gravel roads in October 2011 and last August, according to court documents.
Police said Richardson, who is married and the father of a young son, also told them that he was not through killing.
“We absolutely stopped someone who was going to kill again,” Kansas City Police Sgt. Doug Niemeier said during a late Saturday news conference held just off Independence Avenue, where both victims worked as prostitutes.
The arrest came after around-the-clock police work since early Thursday, when police got two tips from witnesses who said Richardson told them he was a serial killer.
One witness said Richardson was infatuated with serial killers and the other said Richardson smiled when he told her he was one, documents say.
The investigation will continue as police look into other murders elsewhere. Richardson was known to travel the country, Niemeier said.
Prosecutors charged Richardson on Saturday with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse.
Bond was set at $2 million.
Reed’s mother, Teresa Wicks, was glad to hear news of the arrest, but she doubted it would lessen her pain.
“Because she’s still gone and I miss her and I miss her voice,” Wicks said about an hour after police told her of the arrest. “But the good part is he won’t be able to do this to anyone else.”
A teenage boy on a bicycle found the body of Sparks on Oct. 4, 2011, on Northeast 120th Street just east of North Eastern Avenue. The Crocs shoe was found nearby. Investigators found DNA on the inside of the shoe.
Last Aug. 21, a farmer discovered Reed’s body lying next to a gravel road near a dead end at 134th and Scott Avenue in Kearney.
Both victims were last seen on St. John Avenue in Kansas City. Their bodies, found with shirts pushed up and pants pulled down, had bleach poured on them.
Sparks’ death was initially ruled an accidental drug overdose by the Jackson County medical examiner. It was not counted among the homicides in 2011.
But when Kearney police learned of Reed’s death last year, they were immediately suspicious.
Kearney police asked Niemeier, a former homicide investigator, to review Reed’s case. Niemeier recognized the similarities with Sparks’ death. Police later linked the deaths, reclassified Sparks’ death as a homicide and started a task force in mid-December, led by Niemeier.
On Feb. 8, investigators put out a plea for tips in the case, and six days later they got what they needed.
First, a tipster said Richardson told him that he had picked up a prostitute from the Paseo and took her back to his house, court documents said. Richardson told him that during oral sex with the woman he put his hands around her neck and choked her until she was unresponsive, the documents said. He then put her in the trunk of his red Oldsmobile Alero and took her to a secluded spot to dump her body. He poured bleach on the body to destroy evidence.
Police believe that woman to be Sparks, who was taken to the suspect’s residence and killed, according to court documents.
Richardson told the witness he was infatuated with serial killers and showed him an article with the picture of Reed.
A second witness “who was quite familiar” with Richardson told police that Richardson had asked her what she would think if he told her he was a serial killer, the documents said. He then smiled as he told her he was one.
This witness’s DNA matched the DNA found in the Crocs shoe, documents say. She told police that Richardson owned a pair of Crocs slip-ons. She said he claimed to have lost them two years ago during a rafting trip.
Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White said DNA, the sex act and the bleach were facts not disclosed publicly.
“These each provide pieces of evidence that link the defendant to these crimes,” White said.
Police had been following the suspect since at least Friday and the suspect was taken into custody about 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the 600 block of Northwest 68th Street.
Richardson, who grew up in Kearney, had minimal contact with police before Saturday’s arrest. He worked a job unloading trucks until about October. In December, his landlord sued him and his wife for rent and possession of the home they were renting in the Northland.
To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to email@example.com.