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Richmond v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

December 14, 2017

LINDA RICHMOND APPELLANT
v.
.COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

         ON APPEAL FROM MADISON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JEAN CHENAULT LOGUE, JUDGE NO. 14-CR-00523-002.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Karen Shuff Maurer Assistant Public Advocate Department of Public Advocacy

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Be shear Attorney General of Kentucky Jeffrey Allan Cross Assistant Attorney General

          OPINION

          VANMETER JUSTICE.

         AFFIRMING.

         Linda Richmond appeals as a matter of right from her conviction by jury and a 70-year sentence arising from charges of one count of first-degree assault, 11 counts of first-degree criminal abuse, and one count of second-degree assault stemming from the abuse of her boyfriend's minor child, N.V. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND.

         In 2014, Richmond was arrested with her boyfriend, Julio Valladares, after Richmond took Julio's daughter, N.V. to the emergency room where N.V. presented with bruises, pressure sores, dehydration, malnutrition, and an abnormally low temperature. After seventeen days in the hospital, N.V. was released to foster care.

         Richmond and Valladares were each charged with one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, and thirteen counts of first-degree criminal abuse. Before trial, Valladares reached a deal with the prosecution and pled guilty to several offenses in exchange for a recommended sentence of twenty years. Richmond chose to proceed to trial.

         During a five-day trial in April 2016, the jury heard of the systemic abuse Valladares and Richmond inflicted upon N.V. designed to "break" N.V. of her autism. Richmond and Valladares lived together with N.V. and Richmond's teenage son. N.V. initially attended public school. However, after the school contacted Valladares regarding red marks on N.V.'s legs, discovered while assisting the child use the restrpom, he initially asked that the school no longer assist her, but eventually took her out of school to be "homeschooled." Valladares admitted that he had no experience or plan for homeschooling N.V., and her instruction eventually disintegrated into N.V. being forced to sit for hours writing lines in a "corrections" binder. The binder contained over 300 entries, mostly dealing with "unfavorable" behavior and the punishments N.V. received for such behavior. Most of this behavior and punishment centered around N.V.'s accidental or untimely urination and defecation. N.V. was restrained at the table writing corrections for so long that she developed pressure sores on her buttocks and legs, which were sprayed with alcohol to clean the wounds, but also to "wake her up." In addition, N.V. was forced to remain in her soiled bed if she had an accident during the night, and eventually she was forced to sleep on a trash bag or puppy pad directly on the floor. Text messages between Valladares and Richmond also referred to N.V. having feces applied to her face and made to ingest her urine or feces.

         During trial, Valladares admitted that he and Richmond abused N.V., and, in fact, much of the abuse seemed crafted by Richmond; she even drafted a routine to make sure Valladares stuck to the "schedule" of abuse while she was at work. Other forms of abuse included forcing N.V. to endure cold showers, sometimes every hour, resulting in the phrase "showers on the hours" to be used in the home. Investigators also found a leather belt hanging next to the shower, purportedly for Valladares to whip the child in the shower. Valladares and Richmond also withheld food from N.V. and made her "earn" the food she was given, resulting in extreme malnutrition and starvation over time. In contrast, Richmond's son did not endure any of this treatment, coming and going as he pleased, with his own mini fridge in his room.

         Eventually, N.V.'s condition became so dire that Richmond was compelled to bring her to the hospital, at which time the child abuse became evident. During police interviews, Richmond initially denied any abuse, alleging, among other statements, that N.V. had been fine a few days earlier, that she had no idea what could have caused the pressure sores, and that she had never limited N.V.'s food intake. But when confronted with Valladares's statements and evidence contrary to her version of events, Richmond admitted to the abuse, e.g., forcing N.V. to remain in a soiled bed or on puppy pads, spanking N.V. while she was in the cold shower, and knowing that Valladares gave N.V. cold showers.

         After deliberating for a little over an hour, the jury returned a guilty verdict for one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, and 11 counts of first-degree criminal abuse, [1] with a recommended sentence to run consecutively for a total of 90 years. In June 2016, the trial court denied Richmond's motion for a new trial and sentenced her to total of 70 years. This appeal follows as a matter of right.

         II. ...


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