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KILLING TIME

BOB BOCCARDI PUT HIS SON RICHARD IN PRISON. HE MAY NEVER GET HIM BACK OUT.BAD COMPANY IT'S BEEN A KILLER OF A YEAR FOR TIMOTHY STARKEY'S CELLMATES.

Gardner was asleep on the upper bunk when Starkey jumped up from a desk onto Gardner's bed. "He woke up, and I started putting an electric cord around his neck," he says. "An extension cord. He got out of it and fell out of the bunk. I went after him. We battled it out for a little bit, and eventually he got exhausted and gave up. After the incident, I put him back in the bed.

"It wasn't easy," Starkey volunteers. "I had to walk backwards up the stepladder. Dead weight. I rearranged the house and put it back together. Knowing it was my own cell and anything they found--hair, fibers, prints--would be both of ours, I figured they wouldn't have no physical evidence."

Starkey says he put a toothpaste cap in the cell door to make it appear that the lock had been tampered with. "So it would look like someone broke into the house," he explains. Then he left to play racquetball.

Guards discovered Gardner's body about 9:30 that morning. Starkey was apprehended as he returned to his cell from the racquetball court. "I told them I had nothing to say," says Starkey, who was immediately placed in solitary confinement. "And that was really it."

But in the eyes of prison investigators, that wasn't it. Shortly after Starkey was thrown into the "hole," guards escorted Richard Boccardi into a nearby cell. That night, both men were told they were suspected of killing Gardner.

Bob Boccardi, who began selling insurance after retiring from the Army, describes himself as a supporter of law and order. He met and married Elisabeth nearly thirty years ago when he was stationed in Germany. The couple had two boys. Their oldest son, Tom, is an Army captain who lives in Hawaii.

Their second-born son had problems almost from the start, Elisabeth Boccardi says with some reluctance. He wasn't a bad boy, not really, she says. But she and Bob noticed something was wrong from the time Richard was three.

The boy was hyperactive, inattentive and disliked authority, characteristics that only seemed to worsen when he reached school age. He was suspended "once every week," his mother says. He had trouble following the rules, and was continually speaking out and getting into what his father terms "hassles with other kids."

By age seven Richard was seeing a psychiatrist. He would continue therapy off and on for years. At first he was diagnosed as suffering from attention-deficit disorder. Years later doctors would say he was manic-depressive. They prescribed a variety of drugs for him, including lithium, but he disliked the side effects and often didn't take them.

The Boccardis tried everything they could think of to help their son. When he was fourteen, they placed Richard in a Colorado Springs psychiatric center for a month or two, after which he went to live in a residential treatment center in Texas for a year and a half. While Richard was in Texas, his parents made a point of visiting him every two months, participating in family therapy sessions.

But nothing the Boccardis did seemed to work for long. On occasion Richard would even steal cash or small items from his parents. When that happened, Bob and Elisabeth say, they'd make him work it off or they'd take it out of his allowance. But he never seemed to learn, and went on to rack up a juvenile arrest record. "Fighting," Bob Boccardi says with a sigh. "Drinking. Drugs."

"Basically," says Elisabeth, her voice still bearing the accent of her native Germany, "we have always bailed Ricky out."

In 1988, when Richard was eighteen, the Boccardis moved from Colorado Springs to Chicago, where Bob had accepted a job as a store manager. He and Elisabeth hoped that Richard, by then a high school dropout, would be able to make a fresh start. "He took a few odd jobs," Bob Boccardi says, "but he couldn't stay out of trouble."

Richard began shuttling between Illinois and Colorado. He was nabbed in Colorado Springs for criminal mischief in the summer of 1989 after getting drunk and putting a rock through a window. He was put on probation. Two years later he set fire to a room at a Red Roof Inn in Arlington Heights, Illinois. According to a police spokesman there, Boccardi had rented a room and thrown a party for his friends. When the bash was over, says the spokesman, Richard "decided it would be a good idea to set the room on fire."

Richard's friends later told police that he had heaped phone books, tables and the bathroom door in the middle of the room and set the pile on fire. But by the time Illinois authorities tracked him down, Richard was in custody again in Colorado.

Bob and Elisabeth Boccardi had moved back to Colorado Springs in the summer of 1991, bringing Richard with them. "We were here no more than a month," Bob Boccardi says, "when Richard grabbed my Pocket Teller card and cleaned out" the family's bank account. Richard also threw a $1,500 fete for his friends at the Colorado Springs Marriott with the help of Bob's American Express card. Then he banged up the family car. And he did it all within a fourteen-hour period.

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