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11 YEARS LATER, CASE IS SOLVED

Officials have found Erica Richardson's killer. Problem is, he was slain in 1998.
Published Aug. 9, 2008

When Imogene Richardson learned that day in 1997 that her daughter, Erica, 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 only recently through tests of an old DNA sample.

"I would have liked to look in his face and let him know he didn't have to do it," Imogene Richardson said.

Erica was Richardson'sbaby 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. He had his last name tattooed on his left hand, right calf and right bicep. His first name was tattooed on his left calf while his initials adorned his right bicep.

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.

He was nowhere to be found, but he haunted Imogene Richardson everywhere.

She thought she saw him at Wendy's, once, and scribbled down a license plate. She went on Montel Williams and Maury Povich and raised a $10,000 reward. Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted featured her daughter. Imogene asked networks to air the reruns.

Her remaining children worried that their mother would die before Feiga was found.

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.

Louisiana authorities won't disclose how he died because it's an open homicide case, Hillsborough sheriff's Col. Gary Terry said.

"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?

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.