A 76-year-old man who was allegedly linked by DNA evidence to the cold-case killings of a 15-year-old girl and three young women in Los Angeles and Inglewood dating back as far as 1980 has died while in custody.
Superior Court Judge Armenui Amy Ashvanian announced Friday that the court had received documentation that Billy Ray Richardson was pronounced dead Feb. 15.
Richardson — who had previously been brought into court on a hospital gurney — had been awaiting arraignment on four murder charges after being extradited last year from Texas.
The case against him was dismissed as a result of his death.
“I just feel very sad for the families that will never get to see him held responsible for the crimes he committed — the horrendous murders of these four young women,” Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said outside the downtown Los Angeles courtroom. “I hope at the very least it brings them some peace to know we’ve identified the perpetrator and he’s no longer living among us.”
Richardson was charged last July with the March 6, 1980, killings of 25-year-old Beverly Cruse and 22-year-old Debra Cruse, two sisters who were each shot in the head three times in an apartment in the 3200 block of Overland Avenue in Palms, along with the July 26, 1980, killing of the 15-year-old Kari Lenander, who was strangled in the 3700 block of Victoria Avenue, and the Dec. 31, 1995, slaying of Trina Wilson, 28, whose throat had been slashed in North Park in Inglewood.
Each of the victims had been raped, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The murder charges had included the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the commission of a rape and murder during the commission of a burglary.
“Investigative and forensic work over decades connected these murders through DNA and linked them to suspect Billy Ray Richardson,” according to a statement released by the Los Angeles Police Department after his arrest.
Richardson’s identification as the suspect in the killings and his subsequent arrest was the result of a collaborative investigation involving the LAPD, Inglewood Police Department, FBI, Fort Worth Police Department and investigators from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, according to the LAPD.
Richardson died from complications of a cervical spine injury and blunt force trauma, according to records from the coroner’s office, which concluded that the manner of his death was an “accident.”
The coroner’s office also listed COVID-19, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dementia as other significant conditions for Richardson.