LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A blue sky means more to Bill Richards than most of us will ever understand.
Only four months ago, he walked out of a Rancho Cucamonga prison, 23 years after he was convicted of murdering his wife, a crime that now the state Supreme Court says he never committed.
“I get out of the house and I keep busy but I don’t really have a life,” said Richards, now 67.
That’s partly because he is broke. His house and cars were liquidated during his lockup, and the people he used to lean on are gone.
“Through all those years actually five of my closest friends, I mean we were a tight group, they’ve all died, so my family has died.”
Attorney Wendy Koen spent years working for his freedom. Now she and her family have given him a place to stay in their Riverside home.
To give back, Richards does repairs and chores when he has the energy. He also has prostate cancer. Despite a wrongful conviction, Richards hasn’t received a dime from the State of California. Richards says he gets by with a meager Social Security check that wasn’t funded when he was imprisoned for 23 years.
“The compensation process has been nothing but a nightmare for us and for our clients,” said attorney Michael Semanchik with the California Innocence Project.
The nonprofit is located at the California Western School of Law in downtown San Diego. A team of attorneys and students works to free wrongfully convicted inmates.
According to the nonprofit, some clients have been waiting up to a decade to get compensation. By law, the state is required to pay someone convicted then exonerated $140 a day for every day he or she served behind bars.
Richards has photographs of his wife Pamela that he kept in prison. Her body was found in their Hesperia home with a lesion on her hand. An expert testified it was likely a bite mark from Richards. He was convicted of killing her. But years later, the expert admitted he was wrong and recanted his testimony. This year, the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction. He wore his wedding ring through it all.
Richards sat down with CBSLA’s Jennifer Kastner looking at objects like photos and clothing from when the legal system pushed the pause button on his life when he was 43.
Idle time now comes with new satisfaction. He is finishing the book he started in prison.
He also hopes to move to Nevada and open an engineering company and says there’s no time to look back.
“Now it’s time to move on and accomplish something with my life,” Richards said.
So if Richards didn’t kill his wife, then who did? The California Innocence Project believes there was a possibility it was Angel Resindez, a serial killer dubbed the “railroad killer” who was linked to at least 15 murders. He was executed 10 years ago.