Serial Killer's Push for Freedom: I'm a 'Better Person'

75-year-old Richard Steeves says he's overcome his 'violent, unpredictable past'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2017 12:26 PM CDT
Serial Killer's Push for Freedom: I'm a 'Better Person'
Richard Steeves is vying for his freedom.   (Getty Images/josefkubes)

Richard Steeves is 75 years old, plays the piano, and has just one wish in life. But as Bob Hohler details for the Boston Globe, that wish—freedom—is complicated by the fact that Steeves is a convicted serial killer who's been in prison for three decades. Hohler has long covered Steeves' case, including his clemency push, which the inmate at Maine's Mountain View correctional facility says would give the state a chance to show off a real "success story" of prisoner rehabilitation. To bolster his case, Steeves, who has Parkinson's disease, has been highlighting evidence of his turnaround, including his hospice work and piano instruction for other inmates, caring for neglected dogs through a prison program, and woodworking contributions to the facility's store. "Keeping me in prison longer is no benefit to anyone," he recently told the Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency.

But it's hard to overlook Steeves' past, which included killing five mostly elderly men in the mid-'60s—and then a sixth man in 1985, just months after he'd been set free from prison. Hohler reveals Steeves' backstory, which includes physical abuse by his dad (who later killed himself), alleged sexual abuse in the orphanage where he was placed, and a lifetime spent confined: Hohler notes Steeves, long ago diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has only been free from various institutions for about 18 months since he was 12. "I can't recall ever meeting a more dangerous person in an institution," noted a psychiatrist in 1972. But Steeves says he's vanquished his demons, noting, "I've changed to be a better person." One person who doesn't agree: the head of Maine's AG criminal unit, who insists she's "vehemently opposed" to the release of a man with such a "violent, unpredictable past." His story is at the Boston Globe. (Meanwhile, this serial killer is pushing for his right to die.)

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