MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — It was a murder so atrocious that Mount Vernon residents still remember it 15 years later.
Steven Anthony Rickards admitted to killing his younger sister, Samantha, in November 2001. Now that convicted murderer is fighting for a clean slate, asking a judge to not only seal his case but to vacate it.
“He was barely 14 and he had a psychotic break,” Diane Fox said, the other of Rickards.
The 13-year-old boy called 911 saying he killed his 8-year-old sister and put her in the freezer. She was stabbed more than 20 times with a kitchen knife inside their Mount Vernon home.
“I can’t explain what kind of anguish he’s gone through, more than anyone,” Fox said.
Fox says Rickards was given medication shortly after the murder but he hasn’t been on medication since then. But Fox says her son hasn’t had any more psychotic breaks. She praised Rickards for bettering himself while he was incarcerated.
Rickards is now 29 and has been out of prison for eight years, working at one point as an electrician.He has a wife and two kids.
Fox says her son is attempting to clear his record now because he wants to become a hearing specialist and he is unable to pass a criminal background check.
“I don’t believe this is a charge that should follow him for the rest of his life and hamper him from being a good person,” Fox said.
That’s why they are fighting to wipe his murder conviction off his record.
Rickards was not in court on Thursday but his attorney asked a judge to seal his case.
That request was granted due to state law that allows juvenile records to be wiped away after certain provisions are met.
The seal now means no one in the public can look up court documents on Rickards. And next month he will ask a judge to vacate the offense, meaning a murder conviction would be wiped away from any background checks.
“I think there are certain types of crimes that shouldn’t be sealed,” Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich said.
Weyrich alerted the media of Rickards' attempts to seal and vacate ahead of Thursday’s hearing, saying the case should be of public interest.
“Just the seriousness of the charge,” Weyrich said.
He wants state lawmakers to consider changing the law that allows serious crimes like murder convictions to essentially disappear. Neighbors who remember Samantha’s killing agree.
“You have somebody who could go nuts at any time and something like this doesn’t just happen once; there is something obviously wrong with this guy,” Mount Vernon resident Matt Bluhm said.
“There is no reason to hold someone accountable for the rest of their life, what could happen, what might happen, it won't,” Fox said.
And she’s angry with Weyrich for spotlighting her son’s case.
“The grandstanding on the prosecutor’s part is at the expense of crushing my family and myself once again,” Fox said.
Attorney Corbin Volluz says he is considering filing a complaint against Weyrich, calling his move unethical. But Weyrich says he has done nothing wrong.