On April 23, 2006 police entered the home of the Richardson family in Medicine Hat, Alberta to discover the dead bodies of Marc Richardson, his wife Debra, and their 8 year old son Jacob. Marc and his wife had died of multiple stab wounds. But it was the death of young Jacob that was most horrifying for first responders as he was discovered with a deep gash across his throat, his mouth and eyes wide open in a frozen expression of indescribable horror.
In the days after this grisly discovery Canadians would learn that the murders had been committed by 23 year old Jeremy Steinke and his 12 year old girlfriend, the daughter of the Richardsons and older sister of Jacob. The young couple, apparently inspired by Oliver Stone’s film Natural Born Killers, were apprehended shortly thereafter. While Steinke was sent to prison, the girl was sent to a psychiatric hospital for several years.
I’m writing this because the story has again entered the news. The Richardson daughter is now 21 and a student at the University of Calgary. And she just had her last curfew restriction removed by a judge. She is lauded as an exemplary case of rehabilitation and is considered the lowest risk to reoffend.
This should be the best possible ending to a horrific case. After all, a child who murdered her own family has now been restored to being a productive member of society. This case should exemplify the criminal justice system at its best: rehabilitation and, perhaps, redemption.
So why does this “best possible ending” leave me even more embittered?