Fund-raiser set to honor student slain in N.C.

January 16, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Next week should have marked Kevin Reichardt's 21st birthday. Instead, it will mark the one-year anniversary of his slaying.

Mr. Reichardt, 20, a sophomore from Annapolis, was riding his bicycle through town to lacrosse practice at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Jan. 26 when a gunman opened fire, hitting him twice and leaving him to bleed to death on the steps of a sorority house.

"Our worlds were turned inside out after his death," said Brooks Brown, 21, who was Mr. Reichardt's college roommate. "I think about him every day. Nothing in particular makes me think about him because he's always there."

After a year of grieving, the people who loved him are trying to move on.

His friends are holding a party in his honor in Davidsonville on Saturday.

His family is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the killer's relatives and is protesting the state law that allowed his killer to be found innocent.

Friends of the Reichardts have raised more than $100,000 toward a goal of $1 million for scholarships to students whose athletic and academic skills rival those of Mr. Reichardt, who was a star athlete and honors student at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis.

Mr. Reichardt's friends have raised money through a golf tournament, summer basketball and lacrosse lessons and the sale of shorts, T-shirts and lacrosse sticks emblazoned with the initials "KR."

On Saturday, more than 150 friends will gather for a celebration and fund-raiser, which organizers hope will raise $10,000 for the Kevin E. Reichardt Foundation.

The party is meant to thank people who have supported the Reichardts.

"It doesn't matter what else happens, if the Reichardts can walk out of there and feel better about celebrating their son's 21st birthday, then that's all that matters," said Peter Murphy, 21, a University of North Carolina lacrosse player who plans to drive five hours from Chapel Hill to honor his friend. "Anything any of us can do to make each other feel good is the right thing to do."

Some of the money raised will be set aside to monitor Wendell Williamson, who is being held in a psychiatric hospital after pleading not guilty of first-degree murder by reason of insanity in the deaths of Mr. Reichardt and restaurant worker Ralph Walker, 42.

Mr. Williamson, 26, a third-year law student at the school, admitted shooting both men to death as he stalked along Henderson Street in Chapel Hill with an M-1 rifle and ammunition.

Mr. Williamson, who could have received the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder, was committed to a Raleigh hospital and will come up for hearings several times this year and once a year thereafter to determine whether he remains a threat to himself or others.

The Reichardts consider Mr. Williamson a threat, and vow to return to North Carolina every time he comes up for recommitment hearings.

They believe the killer knew what he was doing, and is angry that the Williamson family did not intervene.

"If Kevin had seen this guy's behavior, he would have walked over to him and said 'Hey, what's the problem?' " said Karl Reichardt, 51, Kevin's father. "If someone had done that, I don't think any of this would have happened. I really don't."

The Reichardts also are angry that North Carolina does not allow killers to be found guilty but mentally ill.

On Jan. 26, students at the university will hold a rally to protest the law, arguing that without the guilty but mentally ill verdict, killers can be released onto the streets if and when they are deemed sane.

Only 10 states allow a defendant to plead guilty by reason of insanity, while three states have abolished the insanity defense.

"Three of the jurors were crying when they had to tell the verdict," said Mr. Brown, who attended the trial three days a week for three weeks. "To me, that said they felt they had no alternative, but felt the verdict wasn't fair."

The fund-raiser is 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday at Homestead Gardens, 743 W. Central Ave., Davidsonville. Tickets are $50 for adults and $40 for students. Information: (410) 798-6535 or (410) 224-2684.

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