NPS Expresses Appreciation for Outstanding Work of Other Agencies

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Date: May 19, 2008
Contact: Jim Northup, 906-387-2607, ext. 202

(MUNISING, Mich.) Following the sentencing of Thomas Richardson on May 19, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Superintendent Jim Northup issued a statement expressing appreciation for the outstanding work conducted by several agencies in investigating the fatal fall of Juanita Richardson within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in June 2006, leading to the successful prosecution of Mr. Richardson for the premeditated murder of his wife.

“We would like to express our enormous appreciation to the Alger County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and especially to the Alger County Prosecutor’s Office, as well as to the National Park Rangers and Special Agents that were involved, for the outstanding work and collaboration that led to a thorough investigation of this tragic murder, and to the successful prosecution of Mr. Richardson,” Northup said. “We were very pleased with the verdict and sentence in this case, and feel that justice has been served.”

“There are always things to be learned in any incident, from the minor to the most complex, but the investigation and prosecution of this incident was an example of outstanding cooperation and collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement officials spread over a very large area and lasting almost two years,” Northup remarked. “The taxpayers should be very pleased about seeing so many agencies work so well together to serve the public good.”

"I would like to express my personal appreciation to everyone involved, but particularly acknowledge the work of Sergeant Tony Grahovac and Deputy Steve Blank with the Alger County Sheriff’s Department, Detective Jeff Herweyer of the Michigan State Police, Senior Special Agent Rob Birdsong of the FBI, and to Alger County Prosecutor Karen Bahrman,” Northup added. “The work of Prosecutor Bahrman and her staff was truly extraordinary. Alger County is very fortunate to have such a competent and dedicated prosecutor.”    

Because this incident took place on federal property within the national lakeshore, the National Park Service, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, would normally have taken the lead on the investigation, Northup explained. The federal agencies would have requested assistance from local and state agencies as needed and, upon the determination that probable cause existed for a criminal prosecution, the case would normally have been handled in federal court.

“However, because of the form of law enforcement jurisdiction that exists in the lakeshore where this incident occurred - known as ‘Proprietary Federal Jurisdiction’ - the federal murder statute does not apply,” Northup said, “so the county and the state had the primary burden of conducting the investigation and handling the prosecution,” Northup added. “While we provided a significant amount of assistance, there is no question that the state and local agencies ended up with a much greater burden than would normally occur for an incident of this type in a park.”

"We are working to correct that problem by obtaining ‘Concurrent Jurisdiction’ throughout the park, so that both federal and State law will apply in these kinds of cases, which is the most effective form of law enforcement jurisdiction and the type of jurisdiction that exists in most units of the national park system,” Northup explained.

Juanita Richardson’s death was the first fatal fall from a cliff and the first homicide in the 40 year history of the national lakeshore. “We once again offer our sincere condolences to all who knew and loved Juanita Richardson,” Northup said. “National Parks are places where people come for beauty, re-creation and spiritual renewal. Thomas Richardson not only disrespected the sanctity of Juanita’s life and his own family, but the integrity of this special place set aside by all of the American people.”

“Now that this investigation and prosecution is concluded, we hope that everyone will return to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and enjoy the park for its proper intended purposes,” Northup concluded.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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