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Erica Richarson's cold case solved 11 years later

TAMPA — When Imogene Richardson learned that day in 1997 that her daughter wasn't at work, she drove to her apartment and peered through the window.

She saw blood on the white carpet and a knife nearby.

Over the 11 years since that scene and her daughter's death, Richardson thought she saw the killer at the supermarket, church and bookstores. She saw him in her imagination aboard an oil rig in international waters, too far from U.S. justice.

The now frail, bespectacled 71-year-old mother wanted to look him in the eye and ask, "Why?"

She will never get that chance.

On Friday, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office and state authorities announced they had found the man who killed Erica Richardson, 33, in her Valrico home.

Turned out, that man, John Milton Feiga, her estranged boyfriend, had been killed just four months after Richardson. His fate became known recently through tests of an old DNA sample.

Richardson's daughter, Erica, was her baby girl, the youngest of three. She loved gospel music, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and her Siamese cat. She graduated magna cum laude from Howard University with a pharmacy degree.

She got a job at a Seffner Wal-Mart pharmacy, visited her mother often and left clothes there so her mom knew she always thought of it as home.

A cousin introduced her to Feiga, and they began dating.

In 1996, he was arrested for battery, domestic battery and violation of probation. In 1997, he was arrested for violating a domestic violence injunction.

Erica Richardson filed a restraining order against him that expired Dec. 2, 1997.

Six days later, her body was found stabbed 67 times in her apartment. Her Honda Accord was missing, and Feiga's truck was parked nearby.

Two weeks later, investigators found the car in a hospital parking lot in Lafayette, La., about 60 miles from Feiga's hometown.

Then, in June, the Sheriff's Office cold-case unit submitted unidentified blood thought to be Feiga's from the crime scene to a state laboratory for analysis and to file with a federal network.

More than 700 miles away, two labs in Louisiana were also looking into unsolved cases. They had entered the DNA samples of a man found floating in the Atchafalaya River in St. Mary Parish, La., in 1998. He had been murdered, authorities said, but his identity was "John Doe," case No. A98-071.

On July 7, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement learned that the DNA Hillsborough authorities submitted matched the floating body.

Army dental records confirmed the body was Feiga's.

"I thank God to know that he is gone," Imogene Richardson said Friday.

But now that her quest to find her daughter's killer is over, Richardson and her family are left with another question.

Who killed Feiga?

Erica Richarson's cold case solved 11 years later 08/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 9:02am]
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