Scot who aided Richey reflects on his release

Karen Torley, 41, does casework on her laptop as she watches television and takes phone calls in her home in Glasgow. Ms. Torley began the campaign to free inmate Kenneth Richey.
Karen Torley, 41, does casework on her laptop as she watches television and takes phone calls in her home in Glasgow. Ms. Torley began the campaign to free inmate Kenneth Richey.

GLASGOW - Moments after Kenneth Richey walked out of the Putnam County jail on Monday, a free man for the first time in more than 21 years, he thanked just one person specifically by name.

Karen Torley.

But the 41-year-old divorced, unemployed Glasgow mother of four and grandmother of three was nowhere to be seen when Richey finally stepped off a plane in nearby Edinburgh two days later, an event broadcast live on Scottish television.

"I couldn't stop crying when he came off the plane," Ms. Torley told The Blade between puffs on cigarettes. "There was a lot of emotion. It was something that I'd worked so hard for. It was my choice not to be there. I thought he looked so bewildered and exhausted, and these people were all yelling at him."

She hasn't talked to Richey while he, his brother Steve of Cloverdale, Ohio, and his mother, Eileen of Edinburgh, have been sequestered in a posh hotel outside the Scottish capital since his return. The tab and the flights for the Richey brothers were picked up by media organizations paying for his exclusive story.

Ms. Torley has shared in none of it, despite the fact that famous London publicist Max Clifford, who arranged exclusive media deals estimated at upward of $60,000, the equivalent of 30,000 pounds, said she was the one who first brought him on board a couple of years ago.

"I will get left with what's left

when they're all gone," she said. "By that time, he'll be totally exhausted. He's gone through some type of trauma, and these people all just feed off of it. They've got to get a news story."

Richey had been convicted of aggravated murder and arson charges in the 1986 death of Cynthia Collins, who was just shy of her 3rd birthday when a Columbus Grove, Ohio, apartment fire claimed her life.

The Cincinnati-based U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions for a second time last year on the grounds that his attorney was ineffective at trial when it came to challenging questionable arson evidence.

On Monday, Richey, 43, pleaded no contest to lesser charges of attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and breaking and entering, essentially agreeing that he'd proven to be a bad baby-sitter for the child. In return, the state opted not to retry him on the aggravated murder and arson charges, and with that, Richey became a free man. He is expected to move into his mother's home in the residential community of Dalry in central Edinburgh.

Ms. Torley still lives in what was her "granny's house" in the poor part of Cambuslang on the outskirts of Glasgow. With the help of the European Union, Scotland's largest city is only now starting to rebound from the demise of its steel, shipbuilding, and coal industries decades ago.

The Richey story largely fell off the front pages of United Kingdom newspapers after his homecoming, but another wave of publicity is expected today as a pair of United Kingdom publications, the Mail on Sunday newspaper and Sunday People tabloid, are likely to start running stories for which they had paid him and his family.

An exclusive story on SkyTV is expected later in the week.

"Money was never my motivation for this," Ms. Torley said. "I believed in it. I've never had money. You don't miss what you never had."

The United Kingdom no longer has a death penalty, although there are those who lobby for its return. Counting Richey, just 10 British nationals were on death rows in countries across the world, including two facing execution for murders in California and Texas, and several facing death for drug charges in southeast Asia.

Ms. Torley first became aware of Richey through a 1990s Scottish TV documentary.

She wasn't impressed with what she saw from death row at Mansfield Correctional Institution.

"He had a way that he talked through his teeth," Ms. Torley said. "I thought he was really arrogant. And when he said he was innocent, I said, 'Yeah right, they all say that.'

"But then I thought it must feel like the loneliest thing on earth for people to want you dead," Ms. Torley said.

"So eventually I wrote to Kenny, just to let him know I didn't want him dead. I didn't even know what he was in for."

She was surprised when he wrote back, triggering frequent letters and phone calls, and at Richey's request she started beating the drum more loudly in Scottish media. She raised money to send Richey's mother, Eileen, to visit her son on death row, receiving contributions from the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of Parliament.

But she eventually turned her eyes across the sea to Ohio, nearly 4,000 miles across the Atlantic.

"I knew it was no good to speak to people over here," she said. "I knew people had a grasp of it, but it was the people in Ohio who mattered."

Their relationship raised eyebrows when, at one point, she took Richey's last name and was identified as his fiancee.

"Kenny rang me up one day, and said, 'I put you on the prison list as my wife, Karen Richey,'•" she said. "I said 'Kenny, I don't have ID.' So I had to go and get my passport changed. I had to give an affidavit, saying I wish to be called this name. Over here, you can call yourself whatever you want."

The relationship, however, ended when Richey's ex-wife from Minnesota, Wendy, and their son, Sean, came back into his life. They did not travel with him to Edinburgh, however.

Ms. Torley is now planning to remarry her ex-husband, Frank, a truck driver who said he is proud of what she helped to accomplish with Richey.

"She beat them the Americans," he said with a smile.

Ms. Torley is also not finished with Ohio's death row.

Through Richey, she befriended death-row inmate John Spirko, who ironically learned Gov. Ted Strickland had commuted his death sentence to life in prison on the same day Richey finally got back to Scotland.

Spirko was convicted in the 1982 kidnapping and stabbing of a Van Wert County postmaster, Betty Jane Mottinger.

And Ms. Torley has taken an interest in the case of George C. Skatzes, 51, one of the so-called "Lucasville Five" sentenced to death for roles in the 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Institution that led to the deaths of nine prisoners and a guard.

"After other death-row inmates started to see that things were happening for Kenny, I had people send me their case papers," Ms. Torley said. "I started doing take-home stuff for George Skatzes, so yeah, I think Ohio's stuck with me for a while."

And she is working on a book about the Richey case.

"Now I have an ending," Ms. Torley said.

Contact Jim Provance at:

or 614-221-0496.