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Pleasants County man sentenced in death of 1-year-old girl

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A Pleasants County man who admitted to killing the one-year-old daughter of his former girlfriend has received a term of life in prison.

Curtis Dean Richards, Jr.
Curtis Dean Richards, Jr.

Curtis Dean Richards, Jr., 31, of St. Marys, was sentenced Wednesday in Wood County Cirtcuit Court to life with a chance at parole in 15 years for first degree murder, as well as 1-10 years on a grand larceny charge related to breaking into a Vienna restaraunt to be served consecutive to each other. Both terms will run consecutive to that of a parole violation he was already serving.

“There was quite a bit of work put into this by the detectives at the Parkersburg Police Department,” said Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton. “We were finaly able to see resolution to the case with the judge imposing the maximum sentences under the plea agreement.”

While babysitting Ariella Merinar and her 2-year-old sister on August 5, 2014 in Parkersburg while their mother was at work, Richards caused severe head and neck injuries to the child, resulting in her death.

When initially questioned, he lied to authorities saying the older child suffocated the younger while they were sleeping.

No specific motive was ever determined for Richards’ actions, but Wharton said they had some ideas they would have presented.

“[There were] arguments that we would have made had this gone to trial, but given the stage that the plea agreement was reached, we didn’t get to that point in arguing those before the court.”

Richards fled the state and was later arrested the next month in Mexico City through a collaborative effort between federal, state and local officals tracking his ties to certain areas.

“We had law enforcement in the state of Alabama that assisted in the investigaiton,” Wharton said. “We had witnesses that we were going to be flying up for the trial, had we gone to trial, from Alabama. This was a nationwide effort.”

He would be returned to the state by the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service to face charges from an indictment that had already been returned by an indictment.

Through the yearlong process of bringing Richards to justice in court, Wharton said his office tried their best to work for the family that had lost their loved one far too soon.

“Certainly nothing is going to bring Ariella back, but seeing that the judge imposed the most that he could potentially do [Wednesday], I think they were pleased with the result.”

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