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After Richard Lockett pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife Kirsten Russell Lockett, he agreed to sit down for an exclusive interview to explain what happened. But prosecutors and experts say Lockett’s responses raised more questions about his decision to plead guilty than they answered.
“People don't normally plead to life in prison without parole. So we were a little surprised by that,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Gallo said. “We were happy that we weren't going to have to do a trial that would almost surely necessitate five children talking about this awful thing that happened to them and their mom.”
During his interview with Denver7’s chief investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski, Lockett repeatedly denied killing his wife while also saying he took responsibility for her death.
“It was never going to go to trial in the first place, and my family's been through enough, my kids have been through enough,” Lockett said. “I wasn't going to put them back in in the courts and there was no gain.”
“I would say he's a narcissist,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in response. “I would say that this is one way for him to go into prison for the rest of his life not as the brutal murderer of his wife and the mother to his children but as a bit of a sympathetic hero character. This is a guy who took one for the team to try to spare his kids. I think that's what he convinces himself.”
Gallo called Lockett’s contentions he did not kill his wife offensive.
“She was violently and wrongly taken from this world. And he did it. And none of the evidence supports his rendition of how it happened. None,” Gallo said.
Evidence contradicts Lockett’s account of the murder
In his interview, Richard Lockett claimed his wife’s brutal death may have been self-inflicted.
“I was talking to Kirsten, I turned my back so she didn't see me stab myself, both sides of my neck... I remember blood poured out all over her pant leg,” Lockett said. “I lost a lot of blood and passed out. And I guessed she picked up the knife and stabbed herself.”
“I think when the discussion begins leading immediately up to the murder is when we depart from reality and going into a very fanciful recollection of how things happened,” Gallo said.
“I'm sure a lot of people say ‘I don't buy it’ but reality is I'm already taking the ultimate penalty that the state is going to give me, so what's to gain by saying I didn't [do it?] I’m just telling the fact that’s what happened,” Lockett said, arguing that if he wanted to use his denial to get out of prison he would have given the interview before going to trial.
“He had nothing to lose except the narrative on his conduct. Because once we go to trial, once we have that week or two week trial, then every single fact comes out in a way that he can't control and he's not arguing or spinning. For him to plead guilty now and to be able to sit down and give his own narrative as to what happened, there's some value in that,” Brauchler countered. “With the facts closed, the case closed, he's been sentenced, he can almost tell whatever story he wants.”
In Lockett’s account of the murder, he did not enter the Castle Rock home where his wife and her children were hiding with plans to kill anyone but himself. He said he did not arrive with a weapon. He said he remembered walking through the window, not breaking it. Gallo said if he had the chance to cross-examine Lockett he would point out that his story simply did not match the evidence.
“Ok, you think that's true? Explain the glass that's found on the bed that the children are sleeping on after you say you didn't break this window. Explain the knife that has no godly business being in that house that you say you didn't take with you. Explain your attempts to enter the house by slicing a doggy door open that came to no avail. Explain those things and tell me how your rendition is true,” Gallo said.
Prominent police psychologist John Nicoletti watched the jailhouse interview and said he was not surprised to see Lockett say he did not commit the murder.
“I think there's two theories,” Nicoletti said. “One is that there's a significant amount of decoding errors going on in the brain. From extreme mental illness to drugs or whatever. The other is more of a staging, that, ‘Hey, I don't want to tell the truth about this part and the only way I can get around that is by distorting information.’”
“It's entirely possible that he believes it to be true, it's possible that he needs to believe that what he's saying is true, because the alternative is waking up every day in a world where you're a villain. And that's a heck of a thing to do,” Gallo said.
“When you see these crimes, everybody has to save face in some way,” Nicoletti said.
“Kirsten Lockett can't weigh in here. When you see him in front of that camera, knowing that she doesn't have a voice. What voice needs to be brought in here?” Kovaleski asked the prosecutor.
“It cheapens and degrades Kirsten's life and her death when he lies about it. And that can't be left to stand,” Gallo responded.
“My only agenda I have here is I hope this helps somebody”
While Richard Lockett denied having any memory of killing his estranged wife, he did describe being in a very troubled mental state in the weeks leading up to the murder.
Kirsten filed for divorce weeks before her death and a court order prevented Lockett from seeing his children. Lockett was a wanted man on the day of the killing, on the run from an arrest warrant for kidnapping his wife five days prior. He said he walked all the way from Colorado Springs to Castle Rock and spent the entire night outside the window watching his kids.
“Ultimately, what sent you into a rage?” Kovaleski asked Lockett.
“I don't believe anybody ever said I was ever mad, angry,” he responded. “I was depressed. I think every person [police] interviewed said I was depressed and I was suicidal.”
“One of the things that surprised me [watching the interview] was the pushback that he gave you when you said, ‘You were full of rage,’ Nicoletti told Kovaleski. “Instantaneously, he said, ‘No I'm depressed!’ It's like he couldn't accept that rage was a part of him. He had to be depressed and hopeless and helpless.”
Lockett said he agreed to the interview in hopes his story might help someone watching at home who may be on the same path.
“My only agenda I have here is I hope this helps somebody,” he said. “Maybe it's their friend that realizes how far gone they are. Just grab the hold of them, you know, take them to their house, give them a hug.”
“Get help, go to church, go get counseling, find a friend, get help,” Lockett added.