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'We're devastated': San Jose parents charged with murder in toddler's fentanyl death

Julia Prodis Sulek and Scooty Nickerson, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

SAN JOSE, Calif. — She grew up in a lovely home in the Almaden Valley. She was a cheerleader at West Valley College and a fan of the San Jose Sharks. She rescued kittens for a nonprofit agency.

But when police arrested Kelly Richardson a day before Thanksgiving, they found her with the drugs that had turned her life to tragedy.

On Monday, Richardson, 28, walked into the Santa Clara County courtroom in shackles next to her boyfriend Derek Rayo, 27. It was the San Jose couple’s first court appearance to face murder charges in the fentanyl overdose death of their 19-month-old daughter Winter — the third South Bay child younger than 2 killed by the deadly opioid in six months.

“We’re devastated right now,” Richardson’s mother, Amy Richardson, said in the hallway before entering the courtroom.

Richardson’s parents declined to answer any other questions, leaving their daughter’s Facebook page showing her cheerleading pictures and Sharks jerseys and cat rescues to give a glimpse into her life before fentanyl took over.

Rayo’s upbringing appeared far less idyllic, according to court records. He once told police he had been using methamphetamine since he was 12. He has a criminal record for heroin possession and auto theft, and in 2016 was convicted of felony battery for beating up a fellow inmate in county jail.


Richardson and Rayo are the first parents in Santa Clara County to be charged with murder in a fentanyl poisoning death of their child. During their arraignments Monday – the first step leading toward a murder trial – Superior Court Judge Johnny Cepeda Gogo denied them both bail. They are expected to enter pleas during a healing set for Jan. 3.

Richardson will also undergo a mental health evaluation, at the request of her defense lawyer, Adrienne Dell.

Rayo had been in jail on an unrelated case when prosecutors filed the felony complaint on Nov. 17 in baby Winter’s death. Richardson, meanwhile, was arrested Wednesday. Police found her in San Jose with drugs and drug paraphernalia, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Monroe Tyler said.

“It’s evidence of her continued use and her disregard of the danger that she poses to other people,” Tyler told reporters outside the courtroom Monday. “It supports our case in that she’s continuing to use despite these dangerous consequences.”


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