Memorial to mark anniversary of family’s grisly murder-suicide

One year after his close friend Tessa Richards’ murder, one thing still confuses 13-year-old Matthew Girouard: why her father killed her.

To this day, he longs to see her at school, misses her frequent jokes and wishes she were still rollerblading around the neighborhood.

“She was a good person,” Matthewsaid.

Friday marks the anniversary of the day that Anthony James Richards, 53, telephoned the San Mateo Police Department to report the murders of his daughters, Tessa, 13, Alexa, 17, and his wife, Nicole Marie Richards, 54, before turning a gun on himself. Tonight, friends and family will gather in memory of the Richards family’s lives.

“I wake up and they’re on my minds every day,” said Matthew’s mother, Carrie Girouard, a longtime friend and neighbor of the Richards clan. “It’s still so confusing — nobody will ever know why anybody would do that.”

After smothering his daughters, bludgeoning his wife and stacking their bodies in a backyard freezer behind their Maxine Avenue home, Anthony Richards wrote a note explaining that mounting financial pressures led him to kill his family, according to San Mateo police Capt. Mike Callagy, who led the investigation into their deaths. The event deeply shook neighbors, many of whom knew the Richards clan through church, youth sports and community groups like the Police Activities League.

“This was the ultimate tragic situation — a horrendous byproduct of domestic violence,” Callagy said. “The seemingly perfect family that seemed together on the outside was ripped apart on the inside.”

Their deaths have sent ripples through the community as friends and acquaintances struggled to make sense of the incident and move forward.

Officials at Bayside Middle School created a memorial garden in honor of Tessa, who would have entered eighth grade there this year. The Police Activities League collects donations in her memory that are used to help kids pursue her favorite sports — judo and deep-sea fishing, according to San Mateo police Sgt. Tim Sullivan.

Meanwhile, Alexa Richards’ MySpace page has turned into a virtual memorial, where friends continue to leave comments for the popular teen and swim-team member.

“It hurts alot, but I just try to remember all the good times,” one wrote.

Neighbors have also learned a hard lesson about isolation.

“It’s brought our little neighborhood closer. We’re always checking up on each other now,” Girouard said.

The Richards family memorial takes place tonight at 6:30 p.m. at 361 Belmont Ave. in Redwood City.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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