UPDATE: Curtis Richards, Jr. Pleads Not Guilty; Trial Set for February

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UPDATE 10/14/14 5:45 PM

His arraignment October 3 was postponed because the judge to whom the case was assigned recused himself.

Tuesday morning, in front of a new judge, Curtis Richards, Jr. made his plea to the five counts for which he was indicted last month.

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges, including murder of a child by a guardian or custodian, death of a child by a guardian or a custodian and murder.

There were also not guilty pleas to charges of grand and petit larceny for a break-in at a Vienna business after the child's death.

Richards' trial will not take place until next year.

That was a motion by his attorney granted by circuit Judge J.D. Beane.

Richards fled to Mexico, where he was captured in late September.

He has been held in the North Central Regional Jail since he was brought back to Parkersburg October 3.

Members of Richards' family were in court for Tuesday morning's arraignment.

We spoke to Richards' cousin, who said the public should not judge him until all of the facts of the case are known.

"I feel for Kayla, I love her, she's my niece. I love her family, and Curtis, he's my cousin. I'm going to wait for the truth to prevail. And then, we'll know for sure the facts," says Chanda Lott.

Lott says Richards' family has even been getting threats and harassing phone calls since the death of 1-year old Ariella Noel Marinar.

While trial dates in cases usually are set within the current court term, state and defense attorneys agreed on a trial in the 2015 term of court, and that date is February 25.

UPDATE 10/14/2014 11:30 AM

Curtis Richards, Jr., charged in the death of a 1-year-old girl, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to all charges brought against him.

A trial date is not being set until next year.

UPDATE 10/7/2014 4:00 P.M.

The man brought back to the Valley from Mexico to face charges in the death of a baby won't face a judge for at least another week.

Curtis Richards' arraignment is now set for October 14th at 11:00 a.m. before Judge J.D. Beane.

Judge Beane got the case last Friday, after Judge Jeff Reed recused himself, and a scheduled arraignment was postponed.

All three circuit judges are away at a conference and no hearings are scheduled the rest of this week.

UPDATE 10/3/2014 5:05 PM


Arraignment for Curtis Richards, Jr. will happen but just not in Judge Jeff Reed's courtroom.

Judge Reed recused himself Friday.

Now the key question of why?

Following his return to the Parkersburg overnight Wednesday, Curtis Richards was set to be arraigned at 11:00 Friday morning before Wood County Circuit Judge Jeff Reed.

But at the last moment we were told the arraignment wouldn't happen Friday.

Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton said Judge Reed requested recusal from the case.

We placed calls to the judge's office.

Those calls were not returned.

Late Friday afternoon, the Wood County Circuit Clerk's office told us the case was re-assigned to Judge J.D. Beane.

Richards had been brought to Parkersburg from the North Central Regional Jail for arraignment but was returned after the hearing was postponed.

He's accused in the death of a 1-year old child nearly two months ago.

He was on the run until last week when he was captured in Mexico and brought back to Parkersburg early Thursday morning.

UPDATE 10/3/2014 11:50 AM

Wood County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Reed recused himself from the Curtis Richards, Jr. case.

As a result, Richards' arraignment scheduled for Friday morning was canceled.

A new date for the arraignment was not set.

It is unclear at this time why Judge Reed recused himself.

UPDATE 10/2/2014 4:30 PM

No longer a fugitive.

Detectives escorted Curtis Richards, Jr. in handcuffs into the Parkersburg Police Department late Wednesday night.

A fugitive file leading all the way to Mexico and back.

Our cameras were there Wednesday night as the man facing murder charges in the death of a 1-year-old baby was brought to the police department.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin couldn't be happier.

He says our supportive community was great through this whole process.

Richards faces charges linked to the death of 1-year-old Ariella Nicole Merinar.

He managed to get out of the country just before charges were filed.

A cooperative effort between Parkersburg detectives and the U.S. Marshals led to him being caught him in Mexico City.

Shortly after he was deported from Mexico, waived extradition in Houston, Texas and is back in Wood County.

A lot of work and worry, but to the investigators it was worth it.

Chief Joe Martin says this is the first time the department has ever had a fugitive escape the country.

Richards is currently in the North Central Regional Jail.

His arraignment is set for 11 a.m. Friday.

UPDATE 10/2/2014 12:10 PM

Curtis Richards, Jr. is now listed as an inmate at the North Central Regional Jail.

UPDATE 10/2/2014 10:15 AM

Curtis Richards, Jr. is set to be arraigned at 11 a.m. Friday.

Richards, who is charged in the death of a 1-year-old girl, was brought back to Parkersburg Thursday morning.

UPDATE: 10/2/2014 3:00 AM

A former fugitive is now back in Parkersburg.

Wanted for the death of a one-year-old, Curtis Richards, Jr. is in Parkersburg Police custody.

Officers returned him early Thursday morning after an evening flight from Houston to Columbus.

According to Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, Parkersburg detectives made the trip down to Texas Wednesday afternoon, picking Richards up from the Harris County Jail.

Their return flight landed in Columbus shortly before 10:30 pm. They were in Parkersburg by 1:45 am.

First booked at the Parkesburg Police Department, Richards then made the short walk to the Wood County Holding Center in a white SUV and escorted by two police cars.

This was perhaps the shortest trip of his nine week journey.

Police say Curtis escaped to Mexico two days after the death of baby Ariella Merinar.

It took seven weeks for investigators to catch up with him in a Mexico City market.

After spending just a day in a Mexican prison he was transported to the Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas. Six days later he's back in Wood County.

He will remain in the holding center until a Circuit Court hearing at a time yet to be determined.

Keeping checking TheNewsCenter for the latest.

UPDATE 9/26/2014 4:10 PM

Police arrested him at a marketplace in Mexico City.

Curtis Richards, Jr. is back in the United States.

Police says it all happened very fast.

Richards is accused of killing a 1-year-old baby 7 weeks ago and since then he has been on the run.

Federal and state officials worked to track him down.

Police say when officials arrested Richards, he cooperated with authorities in Mexico City.

But he was caught off guard, even surprised.

"Very passive, very compliant, the shock, it was definitely on our side. The element of surprise, we definitely had that at the time of his capture," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

The process of bringing Richards back to Wood County is in the works.

Officials are not releasing how and when it is happening because of security reasons.

However, that also could happen as quickly as the next couple of weeks.

UPDATE 9/25/2014 5:05 PM

Breaking news out of Texas involving Curtis Richards, Jr.

The man accused of killing a 1-year-old baby 7 weeks ago is now back the U.S.

Parkersburg Police say Curtis Richards, Jr. killed 1-year-old Ariella Noel Merinar last month here in Parkersburg.

After fleeing authorities for seven weeks, Richards was captured Monday by U.S. marshals in Mexico City.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says Richards is now in Texas, in Harris County Jail.

He was arraigned Thursday morning around 10:00, where he waived extradition.

Parkersburg Police will be going to pick him up sometime next week.

UPDATE 9/23/2014 5:20 PM

Parkersburg's Police Chief compares it to finding a needle in a hay stack.

The man wanted for the murder of 1-year-old Ariella Merinar is arrested in Mexico City.

Curtis Richards, Jr. is now in jail in Mexico.

With cooperation between the two main detectives here in Parkersburg and help of the FBI, Richards, Jr, was found late Monday night in a Mexican marketplace.

Federal authorities arrested him.

He now faces charges of evading authorities.

Two Parkersburg detectives say Richards, Jr. needed money while in Mexico and they had a plan to find him.

"Basically these detective came up with an idea and it worked. It worked well, as far as to lure him out of hiding and where he was at. Without that plan I don't think we would've found him as quickly as we did," says Chief Martin.

Police say the $2,000 reward offered for Richards' capture was an incentive for more cooperation and the reward was given; however, the identity of the person who received it is not being released.

Chief Martin says he is confident they have the right person in the murder.

Chief Martin says Richards, Jr. will have to be brought back to Texas before West Virginia, which he says could take two weeks to two years.

Richards, Jr. will remain in the Mexican jail.

The arrest of Curtis Richards, Jr. has many feeling a sense of relief knowing that he is now off the streets - especially for the family of Ariella Merinar.

We spoke to Ariella's mother on the phone after the announcement of Curtis Richards Jr.'s arrest and she says it really is a sense of relief.

Tuesday marks exactly seven weeks since the death of Ariella Merinar and her mom - Kayla Day - says her family has spent that time searching for Richards.

So to hear this news is a blessing.

Kayla posted her feelings on her Facebook page Tuesday morning as the announcement came through, with hundreds showing their support for the family.

"I'm just really relieved that he's caught and Ariella can get some kind of justice and that he pays for what he did to her," says Kayla.

Detectives working on the case told us what a great feeling it was being able to tell Day that Richards has been caught, and added that she was even doing an investigation of her own and alerting them of any tips she had been given.

UPDATE 9/23/2014 12:30 PM

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says authorities confirmed in the last 6 to 7 days that Curtis Richards, Jr. was in Mexico City.

He was arrested in Mexico City Monday night without incident.

Chief Martin says the Parkersburg Police Department partnered with the FBI and the Marshal Service in Charleston. He says those agencies connected with authorities in Mexico City and through field interviews, they identified witnesses who saw Richards, Jr. in Mexico City.

He says the $2,000 reward offered for Richards' capture was given to someone who helped lead police to Richards; however, Chief Martin says he never plans on releasing the name of the person who received the reward.

Richards, Jr. is accused of murdering 1-year-old Ariella Marinar back in August; however, he was not arrested at that time because Chief Martin says there was not enough evidence to support an arrest, nor was there enough probable cause to initiate an arrest warrant.

"Unfortunately we had to let him go," says Chief Martin. "We didn't want to."

He adds that he's very proud of all the work detectives have put in up to this point.

UPDATE 9/23/2014 10:30 AM

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says Curtis Richards, Jr., accused in the death of his girlfriend's 1-year-old daughter, was arrested in Mexico.

Chief Martin describes the arrest as finding a "needle in a hay stack".

He says it's unclear how long it will take to bring Richards, Jr. back to the area - it could be two weeks or two years.

UPDATE 9/19/2014 4:20 PM

Not in court, still at large.

Curtis Richards' arraignment goes on without him.

Richards has been missing since he was officially charged with the death of his girlfriend's daughter last month.

His arraignment was scheduled for Friday morning.

No action was taken, other than Richards' warrant was continued.

A reward was issued last month for information leading to his capture.

If you have any information leading to his arrest, contact the Parkersburg Police Department.

UPDATE 9/15/2014 5:15 PM

Curtis Richards, II is due in court Friday.

Lots of questions about whether he will actually show up.

Three days after police and the Wood County prosecutor offered a reward for his capture, the accused killer of a 1-year old child remains on the run.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says calls have come in since the reward was first offered Friday.

Many of them, however, are from people wanting to contribute money for the reward, now set at $2,000.

Richards was indicted last week on four counts related to the death of Ariella Merinar, his girlfriend's daughter.

His arraignment is scheduled Friday morning before circuit judge Jeff Reed.

UPDATE 9/12/2014 4:40 PM

The man accused of killing a 1-year-old baby could be anywhere, including out of the country.

Right now, police are increasing the incentives for people who help find Curtis Richards.

The police department is now offering a reward for information leading to Richards' capture.

It's $2,000 but could go higher if pledged donations come in.

Richards was indicted Thursday on four counts, including murder of a child by a guardian and death of a child by a guardian.

The police chief says, considering he's been gone six weeks, the search for Richards is broadening.

"We are definitely expanding our search out of Wood County. But I believe and the prosecutor believes this monetary reward would encourage that someone who knows, and normally wouldn't call wouldn't want to give that information to do so," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

Chief Martin says police have had numerous tips about Richards' whereabouts, many of them with the same or similar information.

Both the chief and Prosecutor Jason Wharton believe a reward would encourage people who know Richards' location to provide law enforcement with that information.

The money is being provided with funds from the police department's drug money seizure program, and from the Wood County Prosecutor's Office budget.

The number for the police department, for anyone with information about Richards, is 304-424-8444.

UPDATE 9/12/2014 11:10 AM

Authorities announce they're offering a reward in the case of a murdered 1-year-old girl.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says $2,000 is being offered for information leading to the whereabouts of Curtis Richards.

Richards is accused of murdering 1-year-old Ariella Mariner back in August.

Authorities have not been able to find him.

Half of the reward is money the police department has confiscated in drug cases.

The other half comes from the Wood County Prosecutor's Office.

UPDATE 9/11/2014 2:00 PM

A Wood County grand jury returned indictments Thursday morning, including one for a wanted murder suspect.

The grand jury returned 48 indictments Thursday morning, one of them being Curtis Richards.

Richards is accused of murdering 1-year-old Ariella Mariner back in August.

His charges include murder of a child, death of a child, grand larceny and petit larceny.

County prosecutor Jason Wharton asked that Richards be given no bond.

Investigators are still working day and night to locate Richards after he fled the area.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Richards you are asked to contact the Parkersburg Police.

UPDATE 9/5/2014 4:40 PM

It's been one month and the man accused in the death of a 1-year old baby girl remains on the run.

Police admit they are surprised Curtis Richards has not been located one month after the death of his girlfriend's 1-year-old daughter.

People who live in the area where that incident happened told us last month they last saw Richards the day after the child's death.

Parkersburg Police have been checking out leads for the past month, but say there have been no confirmed sightings of Richards.

"There have been some misidentifications from passers-by who thought they saw this individual, but it was someone completely different. Beyond that, we've not received anything fruitful," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

There have been sightings of Joseph Marcum, accused in the stabbing last week of Joseph Sams.

But Marcum also remains at-large.

He is also described as 5'9", weighing 157 pounds and he has numerous tattoos.

If you have any information about either of these suspects, you are asked to contact the Parkersburg Police Department.

UPDATE 8/27/2014 5:25 PM

Three weeks after the death of a 1-year-old girl, Parkersburg Police are continuing their search for her killer.

Police say the St. Marys man wanted could be in Beckley, St. Marys or Huntington.

Parkersburg Police say Curtis Dean Richards, Jr. has associates in all those cities.

He was last seen on August 5 getting money from an ATM at the Speedway on Pike Street in Parkersburg.

Police say they've received several tips, some from as far away as North Carolina.

But none of them have led them to Richards.

He was last seen driving a 1994 black Toyota single cab truck with West Virginia registration 4XA886.

Police say there is a lot of primer on it.

Richards is accused of killing 1-year-old Ariella Noel Merinar on August 5.

If you have information, call Detective K.M. Day or Detective L.R. Board at the Parkersburg Police Dept. (304-424-8440 / 304-424-8444).

UPDATE 8/19/2014 4:30 PM

Tuesday marks two weeks after the murder of a baby girl, and the family appears to be far from any kind of closure.

The search intensifies for a St. Marys man police believed to have killed the 1-year-old, Ariella Mariner.

Parkersburg Police say two detectives are working day and night on the murder case of Curtis Richards.

Police say they're getting plenty of tips on where he may be.

One Tuesday lead them to St. Albans, but still no luck finding him.

"We probably get 5-10 tips a day of people driving by in the area, 'this is the guy who you're looking for.' And we get there and of course it's not him. We appreciate people trying to help us," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

Richards was babysitting Ariella Merinar at the Saint Paul Terrace Apartments, where police say he beat the baby to death.

The 30-year-old has been wanted since Thursday, August 7.

If you have any information on where Richards may be, call your local law enforcement agency.

UPDATE 8/9/2014 6:00 PM

We're getting another look at who investigators say killed a one-year-old baby girl.

30-year-old Curtis Dean Richards, Jr. of St. Marys has been wanted for murder by Parkersburg Police since Thursday.

Police are hoping these newly released photographs will help the public identify him.

Richards has multiple tattoos on his arms and hands.

Search efforts continued Saturday. The US Marshals Service is now assisting local authorities.

"We have received since Wednesday, information that has been coming in at a consistent rate. We have received information that indicates that he may be trying to get out of West Virginia. So it's been keeping our investigators fairly busy and we appreciate the feedback from the community," said Chief Joe Martin.

If you have any information where Richards may be, call your local law enforcement agency.

UPDATE 8/8/2014 4:50 PM

Wood and Pleasants County authorities still need your help.

They're looking for a St. Marys man they say killed a 1-year-old baby girl.

At last report from Parkersburg Police, investigators still haven't found 30-year-old Curtis Richards.

He's accused of killing his girlfriend's 1-year-old daughter, Ariella Noel Merinar.

It happened Tuesday morning at the St. Paul Terrace Apartments off of Emerson Avenue.

Neighbors tell us they last saw Richards the next day.

Police say an autopsy Thursday shows the baby suffered severe head and neck injuries.

Richards said little Ariella was choked to death by her 2-year-old sister.

"There's no way that her sister could have done the damage that the injuries showed," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

If you know where Richards is, call your local law enforcement agency.

UPDATE 8/7/2014 3:10 PM

Parkersburg Police issue an arrest warrant for a man they say is responsible for the death of 1-year-old Ariella Noel Merinar.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin says they are searching for 30-year-old Curtis Dean Richards, Jr., of St. Marys.

He says Richards may be driving a black Toyota truck with WV registration 4XA 886.

Authorities responded Tuesday to the St. Paul Terrace Apartments on Central Avenue, finding 1-year-old Ariella Noel Merinar unresponsive.

They say efforts to revive the baby were unsuccessful.

Police say Richards was babysitting Merinar and her 2-year old sister.

They say the mother of the children was at work.

According to police, Richards told them the 2-year-old choked the 1-year-old until she stopped breathing.

Chief Martin says the incident was a homicide, not an accident.

He says the autopsy completed Thursday shows that the 1-year-old had severe head injuries and injuries to her neck.

A murder warrant was issued for Richards and anyone with information on his whereabouts should call authorities.

UPDATE 8/6/2014 4:45 PM

The investigation moves forward.

Parkersburg Police were expecting to join the medical examiner's office Wednesday morning for the autopsy on a 1-year-old girl who died Tuesday.

Unfortunately for Parkersburg Police, a scheduling conflict with the medical examiner's office postponed Wednesday morning's autopsy.

Investigators say it will now happen Thursday.

The baby girl died Tuesday.

She was pronounced dead at Camden Clark Medical Center.

It happened around 11 in the morning at the St. Paul Terrace Apartments off of Emerson Avenue.

Investigators say the 1-year-old was home with her mother's boyfriend and 2-year-old sister.

Emergency responders performed CPR for more than an hour but it wasn't enough.

Police say there's no evidence the child died of natural causes.

"To my belief or knowledge today I don't know that there was anything medically wrong with the child that would cause or influence the death that we saw yesterday," says Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

Chief Martin also commented on learning more about the people involved in this case.

He says police are working to conduct more interviews and gather more information.

UPDATE 8/6/2014 12:20 PM

The autopsy for a 1-year-old girl who died in Parkersburg Tuesday is pushed back to Thursday.

More details throughout the day Wednesday as they become available.

UPDATE 8/6/2014 11:00 AM

It's every parents worst nightmare.

The call came in just after 11:00 Tuesday morning to an apartment just off of Emerson Avenue at St. Paul Terrace.

She'd just turned one.

Police Chief Joe Martin says the baby was home with her mother's boyfriend and 2-year-old sister.

The mother was not home at the time.

Martin says she unresponsive and received CPR for over an hour.

She was pronounced dead at Camden Clark Medical Center.

Police are keeping a pretty tight lip right now, saying there's a lot of investigating left to do.

But they don't believe it's a natural death.

"Essentially we're still trying to gather information. We secured the scene, got a search warrant, went inside the apartment, looked around, took a few items today. We'll analyze that at the lab and see if there's anything in addition to what we know that would help us actually determine the truth and find the truth to how this child died," says Chief Martin.

Martin says he'll know a lot more after the autopsy.

That's scheduled for Wednesday morning

Martin expects foul play but no one is in custody at this time.

A 1-year-old child is found dead and now the Parkersburg Police Department is investigating.

Police say the 1-year-old girl was with her mother's boyfriend and 2-year-old sister.

Police aren't releasing many details at this point, saying they are waiting for autopsy results.

But they say foul play is suspected.

We'll bring you more information as it's released.

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