Richard Webb Life as a teenager thirty years later
In 1995, I was eighteen-years-old, and I made a choice that changed the trajectory of the lives of my victims, their loved ones, their community, my loved ones, and myself. In December of 1995, I was sentenced to Life Without Parole for Capital Murder.
The harm I caused was 28 years ago, yet I know that the harm is still felt in the hearts and lives of my victim’s loved ones and our families each day since. As I tell my story, I wish not to take away from the pain and loss that my victim’s loved ones continue to feel due to my actions. I will continue to be deeply sorry and try to be accountable each and every day. I am deeply remorseful for my crimes and the harm I caused.
I tell my story as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, not to dismiss or excuse the grave harm I’ve caused. I know that there are many people who have survived childhood sexual abuse, and that many of them didn’t mishandle their trauma the way that I did. I wish I had the courage to have handled it all differently.
I was born and raised in rural Virginia. I was born to my mother, Carolyn Webb. My mother loved me dearly, and when she married my step father, when I was two-years-old, it was the only life I’d ever known. I spent three summers visiting my grandparents before things changed.
When I was five years-old, during one of my beloved visits to my grandparents my Aunt pulled me aside. This was the first time I experienced sexual assault. Each time I saw my aunt, the unwanted touching, groping would continue. I was scared, confused, and alone. I was young enough to not understand what was happening, but I knew it felt wrong. I began avoiding my aunt, in fears it would happen again. I finally mustered up the courage to tell my grandmother. My grandmother warned me to never speak about the instance again. I felt ashamed and more alone. The adults around me, who were supposed to protect me, left me on my own. I never told anyone about the sexual assault for over two decades.
Unfortunately, this deep shame and trauma made me an easy target. I struggled to cope with the trauma, I never started to heal from. I was vulnerable and anxious. When I was ten-years-old my parents relocated us to Caroline County, Virginia. I became good friends with two new friends in the neighborhood, Larry and Wilbert. We would spend the days riding bikes, playing with BB guns, and swimming down by the swimming hole.
On one of our afternoons, down by the swimming hole another boy appeared. He was ten years older than us at the time, Vincent. I had no idea at the time, the impact Vincent would inevitably have on my life. I was young and impressionable, and Vincent saw that. He coaxed me back to his home using my love of BB guns. I followed in hopes of meeting a new friend that shared the same youthful love of a summer pastime.
Once in his home, Vincent made it clear I was brought into the home on false pretenses. I could not leave his home. That afternoon, Vincent raped me. This compounded my initial trauma of being molested as a child, coupled with Vincent threatening to kill me and my family if I told anyone. When he let me go, I was in such physical and emotional pain, I rode my bike home faster than I thought was humanly possible. I left behind my prized BB gun and any sense of joy I had left in me. I wish that is where my story with Vincent ended.
Two years later, Vincent found me again though. This time weeks later in the woods. I was with Larry and Wilbert. Larry and Wilbert seemed to also fear Vincent. They escaped. I did not. Vincent tried again to molest me, but this time, at knife point. I took a risk and I ran. I ran as far and fast as my 12-year-old feet could take me.
I recall being so afraid of Vincent’s violence and how my grandmother told me to keep the first assault to myself, I felt too much shame and fear to ever tell the adults in my life what happened in Vincent’s house. It was over a decade later before I was even able to speak it out loud.
I wanted to be undesirable, I wanted to be invisible, I isolated myself as a means of coping with the trauma. I gained weight, stayed by myself, and really only spent time with my step-father. It was during this time, the man I thought to be my father, I learned was not my biological father, but instead my step-father. I felt betrayed. The person I felt closest to in the world, was not who I thought he was.
The next few months, I turned seventeen and I isolated more. I fell further into depression, began using substances, alcohol, skipping school, and ran states away on two separate occasions. I was crying out for help in all the wrong ways. My mother tried to protect me, in the way she knew how. She sent me to live with my grandparents. It was during this year I learned about my grandfather’s history. I was not the only person to experience sexual molestation, but my mother and Aunt lived through it too, at the hands of my grandfather. At eighteen, I began to understand why I was silenced and made to live in that pain alone as a child. My family was holding the unhealed generational trauma of surviving sexual abuse as young children.
At age seventeen, I did not have the proper coping mechanisms or tools to handle any of it. I continued to drink, I continued to use, and I spent most of my days contemplating suicide. I would write letters to my loved ones. I was alone and I felt like everything was closing in on me. When I was eighteen, I had decided the time had come to end my own life.
I spent the day drinking and arguing with my girlfriend at the time. I sat in my bedroom, waiting to end my own life. Until my family found me. My inconsolable sadness coupled with alcohol, my years of unhealed trauma, led to me switching the direction of the gun from on myself and instead onto my grandparents. While my grandfather, Julian Webb lived, my actions cost the life of my grandmother, Peggy Webb.
That day, my choices cost the life of my grandmother. I am responsible for her death. I have been held responsible for 28-years. In that time, I have had the opportunity to use all resources available to me, to be accountable, to heal, and to become an adult.
During my incarceration, I have tried to use my time to be a decent human being. I have become a mentor to the young men who come in and out of the facilities, facilitated conflict resolution classes, lived in honor pods, earned my GED, named the institution's inspirational liaison and mentor, and completed dozens of courses and programs offered to me. I have taken every opportunity to better myself, rehabilitate myself, and become a lifelong learner.
Upon my arrest, I hadn’t completed high school or been to prom. I was freshly eighteen years old. Like anyone, you do a lot of growing up in 28 years. It’s commonly clinically accepted now for the percentage of youths who commit crimes, their brains are still developing, and for those who experience trauma, their brain develops at a slower rate. I was 18, but I was coping with severe compounded trauma and PTSD that deeply affected my cognitive functioning and reasoning.
Nothing I say or do will heal the pain and the loss of my victims. I have spent nearly 30 years trying to be accountable, by mentoring other young men, so that they do not cause the same harm I did. Currently, my sentence will not allow me to ever leave the Virginia Department of Corrections. I am not slated for a release date, or a parole date. The work I’ve done on myself and with others, is to me what accountability looks like. If ever granted the opportunity to be free, to leave prison, my mission as a free man would continue to be accountable and nothing less than a positive and upstanding member society and community. I want to help survivors like me, to prevent the harm I caused.
With the support of the University of Richmond School of Law Children’s Defense Clinic, I have submitted an application for a Conditional Pardon from the Governor of Virginia, based on my severe trauma history, my 28-years inside, and a new understanding of cognitive development. I ask that I be given a chance.