Pain Of Son's Murder Lingers In Father's Heart

April 21, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

GAMBER — Tiny stars still twinkle on the ceiling of Richard Purman's bedroom.A UFO sticker, as if frozen in flight, still glows when the lights are extinguished.

But most nights, no one is there to see them.

Sometimes Jim Purman sleeps there because it's warmer in that part of the house on South Klee Mill Road. Sometimes he goes there to think about his 17-year-old son, Richard, murdered by classmates for his car in 1987.

Marilyn Monroe peers seductively from one wall. An old copy of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine lies askew on the floor.A life-size picture of Elvira hawks St. Pauli Girl beer.

Bits of Richard's persona remain scattered across his room.

"For a long time after Richard died, part of me truly believed that if I thought about him enough, he would come back," said Purman. "I thought about him constantly. I wanted to tell everyone about him."

He said he would meet people on airplanes and tell them the story of how Richard was shot in the chest by two boys named Brian who wanted to drive to California and needed a car to do it.

"I remember thinking -- after I told one woman the story -- that I wanted her to think about it 40 years from now. I wanted her to tell people, 'I once met a man whose son was murdered.' "

Some of the events surrounding Richard's murder caused his family almost as much pain as the shooting itself, Purman said.

During the murder trial of Brian Jordan -- one of the boys convicted in the slaying -- Purman and his former wife were banished from the courtroom because they were scheduled to be called as defense witnesses in the case.

"A crueler blow to us personally, or asa family, could not have been devised," Purman later testified.

Sitting through the praising testimony of Jordan's friends and relatives at the boy's sentencing also caused the Purman family great anguish, he said.

Rather than attempting to forget the events surrounding his son's death, Purman has joined Parents of Murdered Children, asupport group which meets in Winchester, Va.

He testifies before General Assembly committees on behalf of bills on gun control and victims' rights. Last fall, he appeared on an episode of "Geraldo" that dealt with teens and gun-related violence.

He says Richard would have loved the attention.

"Richard would have loved all the media exposure, talking to reporters and being on television," he said.

Though he has learned to accept his son's death, Jim Purman has not emerged unscathed.

In his job as a drug and alcohol counselor in Baltimore County, Purman was a man of compassion. He says he lost heart when he son was killed.

He still talks about his son's murder a great deal. But it is without the consuming feelings he once had, he said.

"For a while, I was obsessed with the idea of petitioning the county to change the name of Mail Road to Richard Purman Drive," he said. "I wanted everyone to remember that was where (the murder) happened."

He abandoned the idea after realizing that the people who live on Mail Road probably wanted to forget all about the slaying.

The idea of a Richard Purman Drive has not been lost, however.

Jim Purman, who is retiring from his job in June, is selling some of his property and putting in a new access road to the plots.

The new road will be called Richard Drive.

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