Sunday, April 22, 2018
Public safety

Largo man accused of killing wife has long history of violence

LARGO — A man accused of killing his wife on their wedding anniversary Sunday night had a history of domestic violence spanning their tumultuous 21-year marriage, records show.

Richard Pierson, 69, and his wife, Mary Pierson, 47, were at their mobile home in the Bay Ranch adult community at 7349 Ulmerton Road when Pierson started swigging beers in the afternoon, Largo police said.

When he had drunk about six beers by 9:30 p.m., Pierson became agitated when Mary wouldn't stop talking and began hitting and choking her, police said.

Pierson later told detectives Mary had fought back. She escaped from his grasp before Pierson gained control again by pinning her to the ground and choking her for several minutes, an arrest affidavit said.

When she was dead, Pierson went to a neighbor's house and said he'd killed his wife.

The neighbor called 911, summoning police to the mobile home park near Belcher Road. Pierson was arrested on charges of first-degree murder.

Court records chronicle Pierson's history of aggression.

Pierson and his wife married on Sept. 29, 1992, in Pinellas County. A year later, Mary filed a domestic violence injunction against Pierson, which was later dismissed when she failed to appear at a hearing, court records show.

During their marriage, Pierson was arrested nearly a dozen times on battery charges. In 1993, he was convicted of misdemeanor battery for striking Mary, but his jail sentence was suspended for time served. In 1994, Pierson was convicted on another battery charge and received one year of probation, records show.

His last conviction was last year. On July 23, 2012, Largo police arrived at their mobile home after Pierson slapped Mary and pulled her hair. After his arrest, Pierson yelled he would "be back," an arrest affidavit shows.

Mary declined to prosecute her husband, but the state did anyway. Pierson pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to another year of probation, court records show. He was also charged Sunday with violating his probation.

Just six days before Mary was killed, another misdemeanor battery charge was filed against Pierson for beating her on May 21.

Pierson is a Missouri native. According to Swaneah Smith, one of his ex-wives, he has wed seven times.

Smith said she was his sixth wife. They were married for five years and had three children together.

The beatings didn't start until after they were married, Smith said. She was carrying their newborn daughter the first time he struck her.

While Pierson was visiting his mother in Missouri, Smith and her kids fled from Brandon and moved to Virginia to stay with her mother.

"He wanted to beat me all the time. He pulled a knife on me twice," said Smith, who now lives in Georgia. "I just got tired of getting beat."

They divorced about two years before Pierson and Mary married.

In Florida, Mary Pierson has also been arrested, including on charges of DUI, improper exhibition of a weapon, trespassing and petit theft. She was also arrested in 2008 for aggravated domestic battery, but no action was taken on that charge, records show.

The couple's families could not be reached for comment Monday.

Pierson was booked into the Pinellas County jail, where he remained Monday without bail.

"I knew this was going to happen eventually," Smith said. "He's always been a violent person."

Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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