By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"It was," says Bob Boccardi, "the ultimate betrayal." He and Elisabeth knew that if they pressed charges, it could mean jail time for their son. But the couple had finally reached the end of their rope. "He was going to be 21," Elisabeth says, "and we felt we could not bail him out again."
The Boccardis went forward with the criminal case. Richard was sentenced on August 23, 1991.
At six feet, three inches and 230 pounds, Richard Boccardi is a taller version of his father. His short hair and bespectacled face make him look like a throwback to the Fifties. He is clearly nervous as he submits to an interview in another visiting room of the Colorado State Penitentiary. His gaze darts around the small room. He never looks his visitor in the eye. When he speaks quickly, he has a tendency to stutter.
Richard says he understands why his parents felt they had to bring charges against him. He says he is ashamed about what he did to them. But if he does feel remorse, it hasn't made him an ideal inmate.
Richard was initially sent to the state prison in Buena Vista. A March 1992 progress assessment summary filled out by his case manager there describes him as a management problem. "Has no desire to follow rules, anti-authority, lazy," the summary reads. "Takes no responsibility for bad behavior. This man is not interested in improving himself or in doing anything constructive. To date, he has alienated every officer with whom he has interacted."
Six months later a second Buena Vista case manager indicated that Boccardi's attitude hadn't changed much. "He is a big individual who either puts on a show of bravado to cover feelings of inadequacy, or he is really impressed with himself," the report says. "And that, too, is a tragedy. He really lacks in a number of areas, and if he doesn't make some positive changes, [he] will be doomed to a life behind bars."
His assessment summaries don't mention Boccardi's swastika tattoo or his parents' claims that he has picked up racist beliefs in prison.
In Buena Vista Boccardi was assigned to share a cell with Timothy Starkey. The two men are the same age and knew some of the same people from Colorado Springs. Says Boccardi, "We became pretty decent friends."
According to a pre-sentence investigation report, Timothy Starkey was one of four sons born to Timothy and Linda Herubin. After his parents separated, all the children were placed in foster care due to abuse and neglect. When Timothy was seven, he and his older brother went to live with Glenn and Becky Starkey, who adopted the boys three years later. Starkey's two youngest brothers were adopted by separate families. Glenn and Becky Starkey divorced in 1987.
Starkey's run-ins with the law started "because I was a rebellious kid and I would do things at home," he says from behind the visiting room's glass wall. "I would run away." His parents, he says, "got tired" and put him in a shelter. He split from there, too, eventually being sentenced to a juvenile facility on burglary charges--the only crime other than escape for which he's ever been convicted. Then Starkey escaped from the juvenile center. In 1989 authorities lost all patience with Starkey's wanderlust. A judge socked him with a four- to sixteen-year sentence for escape.
Starkey didn't get along in prison any better than Boccardi. By March 1992 prison officials had charged him with disobeying orders, assault and possession of contraband. He was shipped off to Limon, a "close-security" facility where prisoners' comings and goings are carefully monitored. It is a step below maximum security and a step above medium security. It was a backward step for Starkey.
Not long after Starkey arrived at Limon, his old cellmate followed him to the facility. In August 1992 Boccardi was charged under the penal code with fondling another inmate at Buena Vista. Although Boccardi says he was "set up" and that the allegation is untrue, he was convicted of the charge in an administrative hearing and shipped off to Limon.
By early spring of 1993 the Limon Correctional Facility was in a state of turmoil. Prison-reform groups were demanding action in the wake of what they termed "unchecked violence," including the deaths of three inmates (two of which were homicides) and the stabbings of another prisoner and a guard. The American Civil Liberties Union joined the fray in March, announcing it would take on the case of ten inmates who were suing state officials over conditions at the then two-year-old prison. Amid the growing criticism, and within weeks of the ACLU's announcement, DOC chief Frank Gunter abruptly resigned, to be replaced by former Denver police chief Ari Zavaras.
Unit 2 at Limon was one of the facility's worst trouble spots. At the time it housed primarily "idle" inmates, those who didn't hold regular prison jobs and had plenty of opportunity to cause trouble.
Boccardi lived in Unit 2 on an upper tier, one of the lucky few who were assigned to a single cell. Starkey lived in a "house" on the floor below him. Robert Gardner III, who was halfway through a four-year sentence for menacing, was moved into Starkey's cell in late March 1993.