February 19, 2013

Northland man pleads not guilty in killings of two women

Derek Richardson was arraigned in Liberty, charged with two first-degree murder counts in the slayings of Tamara R. Sparks and Nicoleone M. Reed during sex acts.

Dawn Branstietter spent a sleepless night Monday constantly envisioning the face of the man who allegedly strangled her sister and another woman before abandoning their bodies, 10 months apart, along rural Northland roads.

So Branstietter went to see Derek Richardson in person when he was arraigned Tuesday in Liberty, charged with two first-degree murder counts in the slayings of her sister, Tamara R. Sparks, 40, and Nicoleone M. Reed, 24, during sex acts.

But Richardson, who told police he wanted to be a serial killer and planned to kill again, appeared on a video feed.

“I was disappointed that he was not there in person,” said Branstietter, who recounted waking up each time she saw Richardson’s face in her dreams. “I kept getting up, and I felt sick and nauseated all morning.”

The court entered routine not guilty pleas during the brief hearing for Richardson, 27, who also is charged with two counts of abandonment of a corpse. He allegedly killed at least one of the women in his Northland home.

The Kansas City, North, man is being held in the Clay County Detention Center in lieu of a $2 million bond.

He told the court he needs a court-appointed attorney. His next court appearance is set for March 5.

Authorities allege Richardson dumped one body along a secluded Kansas City road in October 2011 and the second body last August in a rural area of Kearney.

He told investigators “in great detail” how he killed the two women, and he said he was a serial killer who wanted to slay others, according to court documents.

Technically, a person is not considered a serial killer unless he has killed at least three times. Authorities have linked Richardson to two bodies.

Also Tuesday, authorities searched a Northland home in connection with the case. Relatives of Richardson’s wife live at the home, and Richardson and his wife had stayed there recently. Authorities also examined a red Oldsmobile Alero that was parked in a Claycomo tow lot. Investigators said Richardson drove an Alero when he allegedly dumped the women’s bodies.

During the hearing Tuesday, Richardson displayed little emotion as he appeared through video link. He responded to the judge’s questions with either “Yes, ma’am” or “Thank you, ma’am.”

Branstietter said she and her family were grateful for the work that investigators did on the case. She also expressed sympathy toward Richardson’s family.

“My heart goes out to his family too, his wife and his child,” Branstietter said. “They have to be suffering just as much as we are.”

A teenage boy riding a bicycle found the body of Sparks on Oct. 4, 2011, on Northeast 120th Street just east of North Eastern Avenue. Police found a Crocs shoe nearby. Investigators found DNA from two people on the inside of the shoe, according to court records.

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 originally was ruled an accidental drug overdose by the Jackson County medical examiner. But when Kearney police learned of Reed’s death, they immediately investigated it as a homicide and contacted a Kansas City police sergeant to review the case. Sgt. Doug Niemeier, a former homicide investigator who now works in Kansas City’s drug unit, found the similarities with Sparks’ death, including the fact that someone had doused both women’s bodies with bleach.

Police later linked the deaths through DNA evidence, reclassified Sparks’ death as a homicide and launched a task force in mid-December.

According to court records, Richardson described to a tipster that he picked up a prostitute from the Paseo and took her back to his house in Kansas City, North. During oral sex, Richardson wrapped his hands around the woman’s 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 Richardson’s residence and killed, according to court documents.

DNA from another witness matched the DNA found in the Crocs shoe, documents say. She told police that Richardson owned a pair of Crocs slip-ons.

Earlier this month, investigators put out a plea for tips in the case, and Richardson’s arrest occurred six days later.

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