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Jury: Woman sane when she tried to kill sister, but other verdicts in doubt

Erin Leah Richey
Riverside County Sheriff's Department
Erin Leah Richey

A Palm Desert woman who tried to beat her sister to death and attempted to run over her mother during an altercation was sane at the time of the crimes, but an Indio jury could not reach a unanimous decision as to her mental state when she perpetrated other offenses, and prosecutors will announce Friday whether they intend to retry them.  

Jurors in the sanity phase of trial for 43-year-old Erin Leah Richey returned verdicts Tuesday, finding her mentally competent when she committed a series of violent acts in December 2018, but the panel was split on her psychological condition when she perpetrated a separate attack.  

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini declared a mistrial on two felony counts for which she was previously found guilty. He set a status hearing Friday at the Larson Justice Center to give the District Attorney's Office an opportunity to declare whether it intends to retry Richey on the two charges -- arson and assault -- or take no action.  

If there's no retrial on sanity, then a sentencing hearing will be scheduled on the charges for which the defendant was convicted and determined mentally competent -- attempted murder, felony assault, auto theft, being in possession of an explosive device, two counts of animal cruelty and a sentence-enhancing great bodily injury allegation.   

Richey, who remains held in lieu of $2 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, is facing more than a dozen years in state prison, without the retrial.

The mental competency trial lasted less than a week and followed a two- week criminal trial stemming from attacks that occurred in the 77500 block of Mountain View Avenue and the 77330 block of Missouri Drive.  

According to sheriff's investigators, on Dec. 15, 2018, Richey struck her sister, whose identity was not released, on the head with a mallet `"numerous times" and also attempted to slash her with a knife during an unspecified confrontation.  

The defendant then took one of the victim's vehicles, and as she was speeding away, attempted to run over her mother, also not identified, who owned the property where Richey was staying in a trailer, investigators said.   

The sister was hospitalized with non-life-threatening head injuries, according to sheriff's officials. Their mother was not hurt.   

Richey was arrested later that same day while driving along Avenida Caballeros in Palm Springs.  

The arson charge resulted from an attack reported two days earlier on Missouri Drive, where Richey set fire to a carport, causing burn injuries to a woman residing at the location. The victim was not identified in court documents.

The animal abuse charges were brought because the defendant set her cat, Mabel, on fire and sprayed ant and roach killer into her mother's dog Mia's eyes before throwing the pooch over an eight-foot wall, according to prosecutors.

Court records show Richey has prior convictions for assault and driving under the influence, both misdemeanors.

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City News Service

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