Before sentenced to death, Home Depot killer shouts: ‘I’m innocent’


SANTA ANA – An ex-convict blurted “I didn’t kill anybody, I’m innocent” Monday moments before he was sentenced to death for the special circumstances murder of the manager of a Home Depot during a botched robbery in 2007.

Jason Russell Richardson, 40, was convicted in April 2010 of murdering Tom Egan during a midmorning robbery Feb. 9, 2007. Egan, the night manager, was trying to protect his employees when he was shot in the stomach.

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Jason Russell Richardson interrupts the victim impact statement of A.J. Egan, the widow of Thomas Egan, and proclaims his innocence in Santa Ana on Monday. Richardson was convicted of the special circumstances murder of Tustin Home Depot manager Thomas Egan. Richardson received the death penalty.

On Monday, Richardson sat surrounded by sheriff’s deputies as he interrupted a tearful and eloquent victim-impact statement from A.J. Egan, the victim’s widow, and shouted, “I didn’t kill her husband … I didn’t do it.”

When Superior Court Judge William Froeberg threatened to remove him from the courtroom, Richardson responded, “I’m done.”

A.J. Egan ignored the killer as she read her statement.

Richardson, she said, “permanently tore my life apart, robbed me of my world, stripped me of my happiness, my hopes, my dreams when he murdered my husband, Tom.”

Two earlier juries deadlocked on whether to recommend that Richardson receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. But a third jury voted unanimously last month that Richardson deserves the maximum punishment, in part because of his violent past and because of the impact the murder had on Egan’s family, especially A.J. Egan and their young twin daughters.

Froeberg concurred with that recommendation on Monday, calling “a cancer on society … who has little or no regard for any life other than his own. The judge ordered Richardson to be transported San Quentin Prison to await his execution – a legal process that could take years.

No condemned killer has been put to death in California since 2007 as attorneys argue whether lethal injection as a method of putting someone to death should be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Richardson will join 58 other Orange County killers on death row, some of whom have been appealing their death sentences for as long as 30 years. He is entitled to an automatic appeal.

Deputy District Attorney Cameron Talley said Monday that Richardson, who has prior convictions for rape, grand theft and domestic abuse, has earned the death penalty.

“He didn’t even have the decency to let his victim’s widow finish her victim-impact statement,” Talley said later. “He’s an evil man. …  If he could die twice, I’d try him again.”

Defense attorneys George Peters and Richard Schwartzberg contended that Richardson was a drug addict who was the product of a horrible, violence-filled childhood where he was raised by an alcoholic grandmother and a drug-addicted mother who had a series of violent boyfriends and connections to the Hell’s Angels.

Richardson wore a painter’s suit as a disguise when he walked into The Home Depot at the Tustin Marketplace carrying a gun and demanding money from the safe. Witnesses testified that Egan tried to protect his employees by getting between them and the gunman and by trying to dissuade Richardson from going ahead with the robbery.

Egan followed Richardson up to a cashier and was talking with him when Richardson shot him at close range in the stomach.

A store surveillance camera captured Egan crumpling to the ground, and Richardson stepping over his body after he grabbed about $500 from the cash register.

Egan died two hours later from massive internal bleeding. He was a retired U.S. Marine sergeant.

Richardson was linked to the crime scene when his DNA was found on a dirty sock carrying ammunition that he accidentally dropped inside the store.

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