Jermaine Richards murdered, mutilated Alyssiah Wiley: why?
To his family and friends, 20 years Alyssiah Marie Wiley was known as “Lee Lee”. She was a young woman with style and drive and a hard-earned presidential scholarship to Eastern Connecticut State University.
In the spring of 2013, she was a sophomore and was preparing for the finals. But on Saturday, April 20, after texting one of her best friends and arranging a date at the dorm, Alyssiah never showed up. Then she missed her classes on Monday.
“She was nowhere to be found,” said her friend Sade Burke “Last Moments”, aeration Sundays to 7/6c on Oxygen.
Campus security contacted the Connecticut State Police for assistance with the missing persons case. Investigators scoured the campus, speaking with friends, classmates and professors.
Working with University Police, investigators tracked Alyssiah’s movements via campus surveillance cameras stationed around the school. Security footage showed Alyssiah on the morning of Saturday April 20 leaving Occum Hall, waiting outside and getting into an unidentified black car which stopped.
“It was obvious to us that she knew who it was,” the Connecticut State Police Sgt. Forrest Ruddy.
Investigators learned from the missing woman’s family that Alyssiah had just been in contact with Jermaine Richardsher boyfriend since high school. After reviewing the footage and confirming that the vehicle belonged to Richards, investigators questioned him.
Richards told police he picked up Alyssiah from campus on Saturday. They drove an hour and a half to her mother’s home in Bridgeport, where they spent an uneventful day, according to “Final Moments.”
“Then he told police he dropped her off at campus that Saturday shortly before 11 p.m. He left it at the Dairy Queen, which is about two blocks from the main campus gate. And he came back to Bridgeport,” State’s Attorney Joseph Corradino said.
Richards, who worked in nursing and had no criminal history, said he had not heard from Alyssiah since Saturday night. Richards’ mother confirmed her story. A search of his car turned up no evidence either. Investigators obtained Richards’ cellphone data to track his movements. Phone tower pings helped confirm Richards’ account of his whereabouts when Alyssiah went missing.
Police interviewed hundreds of people on campus for leads, but this path was a dead end. They considered the possibility that Alyssiah was abducted after being dropped off.
“We checked with our sex offender registry,” investigators said, adding that this did not help the investigation move forward.
Detectives then turned to Alyssiah’s cellphone data for clues. In a text to Sade Burke the day she disappeared, Alyssiah said she wanted to end her relationship with Richards. This message hadn’t totally surprised her friend, who knew that Alyssiah’s interest in meeting new men had grown since starting college.
In the last text from her phone, around 11 p.m., Alyssiah told her friend, “It’s over. I’m coming. I need a drink.” But she never showed up. Her phone activity ended there.
Investigators also focused on a series of text messages between Alyssiah and a former boyfriend written around 4.30pm on the day of her disappearance. The two had made an appointment. Questioned by the police, the young man, who worried about her disappearance, told the authorities that he had not heard from her since the last text messages on Saturday afternoon. His alibi that he worked until 11 p.m. at a New Haven restaurant the night Alyssiah disappeared has been verified.
Thus, the authorities deepened Alyssiah’s relationship with Richards. They were surprised to find that his friends didn’t know much about him.
“She was in another world when he came,” said Alyssiah’s sister, Chaharrez Landell, who recounted an alarming incident that happened a month before Alyssiah disappeared. She told authorities that Alyssiah reached out during the night to pick her up because Richards had become violent and tried to strangle her.
However, Alyssiah struggled to break the alleged cycle of abuse. According to Brenda Westberry, a professor and advocate for victims of domestic violence, this is not uncommon.
“There’s this thought that this person is going to change and they’re going to make changes and it’s never going to happen again,” Westberry told producers. “So they’re pinning their hopes on that particular thought.”
Investigators asked Richards to come in for further questioning, but he declined.
They then focused their research on tracing the route Richards took on April 20. On May 17, a decomposing arm and leg were found in the woods of Bridgeport, a mile from Richards’ home. DNA confirmed that the remains belonged to Alyssiah.
The question was, said journalist Daniel Tepfer, “What happened to the rest of the body?”
The medical examiner determined how the victim had been dismembered: “The body had been disarticulated by a sharp instrument. It wasn’t a saw, it wasn’t an axe, it was a knife,” Corradino said.
This gave investigators pause, as they recognized that Richard’s nursing background had given him knowledge of human anatomy.
On May 17, the police obtained a warrant for Arrest of Richard. But prosecutors faced daunting challenges to secure a conviction due to a lack of physical evidence. They focused on the issue of domestic violence to make their case. “It was important for the jury to consider what was going on in that relationship,” Corradino said.
Richards was found guilty and he was sentenced to 60 years in prison.
To learn more about the case and the organization Alyssiah’s mother started to honor her daughter and others, watch ““Last Moments”, aeration Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen.