Harford County crime scene investigators examine a home in… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
The neighbors said they'd heard the screams for years.
Shouting in the middle of their quiet Bel Air neighborhood. Cursing and threats so loud they could be heard a block away at night.
Late Monday, the conflict between father and son ended violently — with 16-year-old Robert C. Richardson III accused of murdering his father, Robert C. Richardson Jr., 58, and then dumping his body in a pond behind a relative's house. Police say the son confessed to the crime and told them where to find the body.
Police said they were still investigating the motive behind the killing, but neighbors said they had heard arguing inside the home for years leading up to the shooting. Neither father nor son had a criminal record, according to police. None of the neighbors interviewed recalled witnessing physical violence.
"I'm not condoning what the kid did," said neighbor Mark Cullum Sr., 50, "but that man was verbally abusing his son."
A student at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, Robert C. Richardson III lived with his father. Court records depict a family struggling to survive on an income below the poverty level. The teenager's mother died six years ago, after battling cancer.
Robert C. Richardson III has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and a handgun crime. He is being held without bond at the Harford County Detention Center and faces a bail review at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
News of the killing spread quickly throughout Richardson's school and neighborhood.
"He actually told me that he hated his dad," said junior Ashle Jones, 16, who recalled Richardson telling her that his father was physically abusive. "[Richardson] would wear the same stuff every day," she added.
Jones described Richardson as "nice" and said people at the school call him "Bob." Russell Hodge, 17, also a junior, described him as "always quiet." Fellow students said Richardson did not participate in many school activities.
Police were alerted to the violence at 10:45 p.m. Monday when Harford County sheriff's deputies received a call from a sister of the teen, reporting a domestic disturbance possibly involving a weapon in the 800 block of Moores Mill Road in Bel Air. Investigators found blood outside the home and more evidence of a shooting once they forced their way inside, police said.
They began to search for a 1991 Chevy Blazer they thought was being driven by the younger Richardson, officials said, and a state police trooper spotted it about 6 a.m.
Police said the teen led them in a chase but ultimately crashed into a cinderblock wall in the parking lot of Bel Air United Methodist Church near Route 924 and Linwood Avenue. No one was injured in the crash, deputies said.
The driver jumped out of the SUV and ran, officials said. Officers chased him down on foot and arrested him.
Police said Richardson confessed that he had shot his father and told investigators where to find the body, which police said was discovered submerged in a pond near Gilbert Road in Aberdeen. Officials said it was behind the home of the father's brother.
A man who answered the door at that house Tuesday evening declined to comment.
An average of about 225 people kill a parent every year in the United States, according to research conducted by Kathleen M. Heide, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, who wrote the book, "Why Kids Kill Parents: Child Abuse and Adolescent Homicide."
"We're looking into why this happened," said Harford sheriff's office spokeswoman Monica Worrell.
Neighbor Janet Wood, 69, had observed the family for 13 years. The father "was always yelling and shouting at the boy," said Wood, who said she sometimes saw the teen wearing tattered clothes.
"The boy didn't have very much clothing," she said.
Cullum said he and his wife twice called the police on the elder Richardson after what they considered verbal abuse. "One night he screamed, 'I'm going to kill you little f — — ,'" Cullum said of the father. "I'm not saying he should have done what he did, but this has been going on for years."
Cullum said the yelling was worse when the son was younger, but he hadn't heard the disputes in years and thought the situation between father and son had improved. Harford County sheriff's officials say they received no calls of domestic disputes related to the family within the past three years.
In the past six months, police have been called 12 times to the home on Moores Mill Road for a variety of reports and complaints, but no formal action was taken.
In one of several missing-child calls, on Dec. 9, Robert C. Richardson Jr. reported that his son did not take the school bus home. The teen was found in Aberdeen and told police he did not want to go home because he was in trouble.