Still adjusting to widowhood about a year after her husband’s loss, a petite, brown-eyed Casper woman settled in at home one October evening to eat leftover ham and beans and watch “Dancing With the Stars.”
Then she vanished.
Kris Richardson’s husband of 42 years died in 2013. The pair ran a trucking company together, and Richardson went to work faithfully every morning at 7:30, Richardson’s daughter Amber Fazio told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
When the morning of Oct. 7, 2014, came and Richardson didn’t go to work, Fazio and her husband Pete, who lived one corner away, went to look for Richardson at her home.
Both of Richardson’s vehicles were parked at the house. Every door was locked except the internal door leading from garage to house, which was always unlocked. The front door was even dead-bolted, Fazio recalled.
Richardson’s cellphone, purse, cash and identification were right there in her home. Fazio said there was no sign she’d been packing; no sign of a struggle; no sign of forced entry.
The ham-and-bean pot sat in the sink, soaking in dishwater.
Fazio called the police.
As she grew more frantic, she called public transportation services to see if her mother had hopped a ride.
Fazio’s brother drove up from his home in Laramie. The family and other friends gathered and brainstormed.
Richardson was nowhere.
“I feel like I was in a fog most of the day once we realized she was gone,” Fazio recalled.
A Sign In The Desert
Nine years later, Richardson’s location remains a mystery, and no one has been charged with a crime in connection with her disappearance.
When Cowboy State Daily published a story about a hunter finding a human skull in Wyoming’s Red Desert in the state’s southwestern corner Nov. 11, the Fazios dared to hope.
“Whenever you hear that either a body or any remains have been found, I guess more for closure purposes, you hope this is the one,” she said. “I want to know she’s at peace and that our family can have some type of closure.”
She and her husband scour the headlines and social media for clues.
Fazio doesn’t have some innate feeling that her mother has died. She only hopes that Richardson hasn’t been held somewhere as a prize or a target for torture all these years.
She hasn’t gained any new information about her mother’s vanishing since it happened and doesn’t have any hard evidence to link the event to the skull found in the Red Desert, near private oil wells and the faint crisscrossing roads leading to them.
Except, one of Richardson’s employees had worked in the oil and gas industry, Fazio said.
“(He) had some infatuation with her,” Fazio said, theorizing the oil wells could have given that employee a “reason to be outside of Casper.”
Sweetwater County Coroner Dale Majhanovich didn’t have much news on the skull Wednesday. A state anthropologist has it and is in the process of determining its age. If the skull isn’t ancient, authorities will examine its dental formation. They may extract DNA if possible, he said.
The anthropologist told Majhanovich it’s possible the skull belonged to a male, but that’s not definite, the coroner related from that conversation.
‘Somebody Knows Something’
Fazio does not believe her mother staged her own disappearance. Richardson was new at being a widow, but was close with her grandchildren and her family, and was devoted to her work. She was an avid Wyoming Cowboys fan and would have the occasional dinner with one of her few close friends.
Richardson was not dating at the time of her disappearance, said Fazio.
“Someone else – no matter how you look at the situation – (even) if she chose to leave on her own, someone helped her,” she said. “Somebody knows something.”
With help from other family and friends, the Fazio family is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the discovery of Richardson’s location and the conviction of a suspect in the case.
Fazio still struggles to get her head around the absence of clues in her mother’s case.
“It’s seriously the most perfect scene you ever would have imagined,” she said. “We walked in and it was just like everything she told me the night before.”
‘There’s No Way’
The evening of Oct. 6, 2014, Amber Fazio had invited her mother to go to a football game with the family, where Fazio’s son was playing. That was when Richardson said she was going to cozy down at home instead, eat her leftovers and watch “Dancing With The Stars.”
Though distraught after her husband’s death, Richardson didn’t seem suicidal, Fazio said.
“The thought wouldn’t cross my mind,” said Fazio. “But to orchestrate a disappearance, there’s no way.”
Richardson was then 61. She would be 70 today. She stood 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 90 pounds, according to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s missing person database.
The database says Richardson is believed to have disappeared between 7:30 and 11:30 the evening of Oct. 6, 2014. If someone kidnapped her, that person wasn’t after money: the database said Richardson left “a large amount of cash” behind at home.
The DCI page instructs anyone with information about Richardson’s case to call 307-777-7181.
“I never thought we’d be nine years in and still not know anything,” said Fazio.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.