Corrections officials said Timothy Richards, 42, was discovered missing early Sunday during a bed check at the State Cattle Ranch in Hale County, near Greensboro. The facility houses about 110 men in a dormitory-style setting.
Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair, who had — as an assistant district attorney — prosecuted Richards, said Monday that murderers shouldn’t be housed at the ranch.
“A place like that is not a place to house murderers,” he said.
Adair said he has a history with the ranch.
“The person who killed my father was killed by another inmate while they were being housed at the cattle ranch,” he said. “Violent offenders like that have no business being held at a place with no fence.”
Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, confirmed there is no fencing at the facility.
“It’s housing and sleeping in dormitories,” Corbett said. “There are guards but no fence.”
Corbett said Richards was eligible to live in the minimum-security setting because he was within three years of a possible release date and hadn’t had a disciplinary infraction in more than 14 years in Alabama prisons. Richards had a parole hearing scheduled for May 2013.
“He was eligible to be classified as a minimum-custody inmate based on our classification system,” Corbett said.
The ranch is no longer a working cattle farm, Corbett said.
Inmates housed there help maintain the land and often work for cities and counties in nearby areas.
Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey said his office has been in contact with the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, who is leading the search for Richards.
“We are staying in contact with the Marshals and will continue to assist them in any way we can here locally,” Tirey said.
Corbett said he could not comment on how Richards left the cattle ranch, because it is an open investigation.
“Our No. 1 priority is getting Richards recaptured,” Corbett said. “We’ve been following up on leads and tips all day.”
Richards pleaded guilty in Walker County in 1999 to using a deer rifle to kill Randy McCullar, an ex-husband of Richards’ wife, Shonda Nicole Johnson. McCullar was found dead in the parking lot of a church, evidence showed.
Johnson was married to Richards and two other men at the same time, and Richards testified that Johnson got him to kill McCullar after the man filed a bigamy charge against her, according to authorities.
Convicted of capital murder in McCullar’s slaying, Johnson is now on death row at Tutwiler prison. Trying to win his own freedom in 2008, Richards filed court papers recanting his testimony and claiming that Johnson killed McCullar on her own.
A judge rejected Richards’ reversal, and he remained in prison.
Adair said members of McCullar’s family have been notified of Richards’ escape.
“They were my top concern when I heard about this,” Adair said. “We have all of them notified, and we are all to get the news that he has been captured again.”
Richards is a white male, 6 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing 230 pounds, with blue eyes and blonde hair.
Corbett said the suspect should be considered armed and dangerous.
“We have no information that he had a weapon when he left, but there has been enough time passed that he could have gotten one,” Corbett said. “He is an escaped convicted murderer and the public should consider him very dangerous and possibly armed.”
Anyone with information regarding Richard’s whereabouts should call 911 or contact the Walker County Sheriff’s Office at 205-302-646.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.