Cold Justice Apparently Assists Texan Sheriffs To Make An Arrest In Murder Of A Woman Who Was Scalped By Her Killer

On May 21, 2019, Rhonda Richardson, a 59-year-old Texas corrections officer and mother, went searching for her lost dog. She was found dead the next day in a national forest adjacent to her home.

On “Cold Justice,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen, former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and investigator Steve Spingola were in Texas to investigate the case. They joined forces with local law enforcement from San Jacinto Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Greg Capers, St. Gary Sharpen, and Sgt. Omar Sheikh.

Although local resident Robert Dale Clary, a registered sex offender who had been in and out of prison, was an early suspect, the case was still open.

Part of the problem is it was unclear what killed Richardson, a devoted mother and grandmother who lived alone with her dogs: Due to extreme decomposition Richardson’s cause of death could not be determined.

“But it looks like she was scalped by her killer,” said Spingola.

In an atypical twist, Siegler and Spingola disagreed on the case. Like local sheriffs, he believed the victim was murdered. However,  Siegler considered the possibility that Richardson, who was hypertensive and overweight, had suffered a heat-related heart attack and was preyed upon by a coyote or other animal.

The investigators met with Richardson’s daughter, Amanda Ramkissoon. She said her mother was getting ready to retire and that she loved spending time with her grandchildren.

Here’s what the team did know when they started the investigation: On May 22, Richardson was found clothed and face down in the woods about eight feet from a trail used by ATV-ers. Her boots had been removed.

Neighbors reported seeing Richardson on May 21 out searching for her last dog. She had no known enemies or issues with former inmates or coworkers.

Robert Clary’s nephew Jacen Clary, was the one who called 911 about the body.

In the initial investigation, Robert Clary told sheriffs that he helped Richardson look for her dog. She was on foot, he was on a four-wheel vehicle.

He took pictures of her body when he discovered it, “which just blew me away,” a sheriff said. An officer advised Clary to delete the pictures.

In 2019, a search of Clary’s house, truck, and four-wheeler turned up no evidence to tie him to Richardson.

Forensic pathologist Kathryn Pinneri, M.D. ruled out animal activity as the cause of Richardson’s head and face injuries because there were no teeth marks and that the scalp was near the body. An animal would have taken it and eaten it, she said.

The autopsy report showed no other signs of trauma or injury. While investigators suspected that Richardson had been strangled, her hyoid bone was still intact.

Investigators questioned how Richardson was able to get so deep into the forest. Clary, who was on an ATV, had told sheriffs he didn’t give her a ride. How did she get out there?

As the team considered that key point, Dr. Dean De Crisce, a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in sexual offenders shared insights on the type of suspect who would scalp his victims.

De Crisce said that this case suggested “sexual motivation or extreme anger. Individuals that do this type of thing are likely to have a prior sexual offense history. Usually, offenders will escalate over time.”