COVER STORY


on prejudice he may have encountered as a black P.I.
     "Things have changed a lot, Sometimes you make an appointment, and when people walk in, their heads turn," he simply says. "I find that if we talk face to face - they retain me, because I always give 110%. It's been a lucrative and rewarding career."
     
The other big one
     While the missing persons case Ross writes about in this issue is his most memorable, there is another one which, with a little coaxing, he likes to discuss.
     "In 1967 James Richardson of Arcadia, Florida was accused of poisoning his seven children, ages 2 to 8 years, with an insecticide called parathion.  In 1968, an all-white Fort Myers, Florida jury deliberated one hour and 24 minutes before convicting Richardson of first-degree murder.  The same jury took just 14 minutes to recommend that he die in the electric chair.  The death sentence was later overturned."
     In 1980 Ross was hired by attorney John Robinson to find James Weaver, to whom Richardson had reportedly confessed the murders while the two were cellmates. In his search for Weaver, he located
Charlie Smith, an elderly man who lived next door to the Richardsons.
     "Mr. Smith told me that he never believed James Richardson killed his children. He indicated that Bessie R., A babysitter for the Richardsons, first told him about the case.  At the time of the incident, Charlie saw Bessie standing in front of her home and asked her what happened. Bessie told him that the Richardson kids had died from poisoning. Bessie took Charlie to where the insecticide was located- in a shed directly behind the Richardson's house. According to Mr. Smith, the insecticide had been opened. Mr. Smith stated that Bessie went directly to the open bag of parathion and said to him," That's it."
     Ross located Weaver. Weaver told Ross that Richardson admitted to killing his children.
     Ross submitted his Report to Robinson, stating that Richardson was innocent and that he suspected Bessie of the crime.
     In 1985 more investigative steps were taken. Ross even obtained a two-page letter from Richardson begging for help.
     In 1988 Ross was hired to locate Bessie R. He found her and finally convinced her family members to let him talk to her.
     "I asked her if she knew Mr. and Mrs. James Richardson," Ross recalls.  "She stated that she didn't know the Richardsons, but her body language told different. She denied finding insecticide along with Charlie Smith.  All of a sudden she said, "I did not kill the children." I asked her if anybody ever accused her of killing the children. She replied "No," and refused to say anything else to me. I submitted my report at this point and was more certain that Bessie killed those kids."
     Ross was contacted again in 1989 when the Governor's office reopened the case and contacted him for Weaver's address.
     "The Governor's office alleged that prosecutors suppressed evidence in the 1968 trial.  Weaver told state investigators that he lied during Richardson's murder trial when he testified that Richardson confessed to poisoning the children. Subsequently it was learned that Bessie confessed to the crime to nurses in a nursing home. James Richardson was framed."
      Jake Ross admits that he loves being a private investigator because "I'm always looking for that challenge." Fortunately for his clients, he's always up to that challenge.
P.I. Magazine  Spring, 1994 back one page
Click here for "The Kidnapped Grandchildren" by Jake Ross


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