by Virginia McCullough

In the pine covered foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley of California, there is a quiet historic town called Placerville.  Here the air is brisk and clear, rain is frequent and the hillsides sprout colorful large boulders that encourage small children to learn to rock climb at an early age.  The main street consists of two narrow lanes with a roundabout circling the beloved Bell Tower.  One can walk from one end of Placerville to the other end in under an hour enjoying a trip back in time on the way.  In those few blocks of Old Town it seems as if every other store has a plaque out front proudly detailing the building's history.  It is a tourist's Mecca offering everything from esoteric coffee to cheap souvenirs.

The preceding description posted February 9, 2005 introduced my readers to the criminal case of Richard William Hamlin. (Click. Richard William Hamlin on Trial)  Today nothing has changed in that quiet spot in El Dorado County.  It is as though the turmoil and confusion injected into the community by the torture trial of a husband and father never happened.  Gone are the newspaper reporters, the still photographers, the television pundits and the satellite trucks that disrupted Placerville for several months in the winter of 2006.  The intruders are not missed by the residents as they prepare for another snowy winter. The Best Conspiracy Litigation in California is now just another part of Hangtown’s long history.

This article is for readers who are still curious about what has happened since Richard Hamlin was found guilty by an El Dorado County jury on January 10, 2006 and sentenced to life in prison by Judge Eddie Keller on September 29, 2006.

The Honorable Judge Keller, known affectionately throughout El Dorado County as “Judge Eddie” still presides over his historic courtroom.  During the trial this gentleman seemed to become more comfortable with the high profile nature of the Hamlin case and he grew to be a media favorite while always maintaining his decorum.  But to Judge Eddie Keller, the year 2006 will always be remembered not as the year of the Hamlin trial but as the year he lost his beloved wife.  He continues to live in the area surrounded by family and friends.

The dedicated, hard working jurors who gave up so much of their lives during the busy holiday season have returned to their daily chores.  Some jury members will remain emotionally wounded by the individual criticism they endured from the bench, the attorneys and the media during and after the trial of Richard Hamlin.  But at the same time the entire jury now has a new understanding of the complexity of California’s unique torture law.  It is a powerful sword placed by the people into the hands of prosecutors who do not have to answer to anyone.

Prosecutor Vicki Ashworth, nicknamed by the media “no foundation Vicki” because Judge Keller had to constantly remind her to establish the foundations for her questions, continues to secure convictions for the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.  When asked by the media why she had not addressed the issues of drugs, money and sex in the Hamlin trial, Ashworth stated she “did not need to – we have enough to convict him.”  She was right.  Confident and effective, Ashworth now works for the new District Attorney Vern Pierson who overwhelmingly defeated former District Attorney Gary Lacy in the last election.

Public Defender Bob Banning, whose exacting preparation and careful attention to details were apparent throughout the Hamlin trial, continues to defend those most in need of defense in El Dorado County.  Throughout the Hamlin case Bob Banning was “second chair” and Richard Hamlin was his own “first chair” counsel.  The legal strategy appeared to be united and seamless and it is also apparent that Banning always goes the extra personal mile for his clients. He is open and kind and always accessible to answer questions.

The importance of peripheral third parties, who might never appear at the trial, cannot be overestimated.  For example there is a former FBI agent named Ted Gunderson who was employed as a private investigator by defendant Hamlin shortly after his arrest.  Gunderson is a believer in Satanic ritual abuse.  Since the early 19980’s Gunderson has been an advocate of an alleged former intelligence agent named Michael Riconosciuto.  Gunderson acted as a third party go-between for the two prisoners.  Gunderson also gave several interviews to reporter Ryan McCarthy who covered the courts for the local newspaper, the Mountain Democrat.  In the McCarthy-authored newspaper articles Gunderson came across paranoid and irrational.  His craving for media attention forever linked Hamlin to Gunderson in the public’s eye.  When Hamlin realized this he no longer employed Gunderson and, in fact, wrote to Gunderson asking him to stop giving interviews that discussed his case.  Gunderson deliberately ignored Hamlin and days before Hamlin was transferred to state prison Gunderson wrote yet another letter to the editor alluding to his ties to both Richard Hamlin and “harassment techniques used against me by a rogue covert intelligence network with ties to Satanists.”

Five days after Richard Hamlin left the El Dorado County jail, M. Graham of Shingle Springs responded to the Gunderson letter as follows:



I was shocked, but not surprised to see Ted L. Gunderson’s letter in support of the convicted/sentenced Richard Hamlin. Gunderson’s name pops up in some of the strangest of places.

Anytime there is talk of the paranoid, the wacky or weird, you’ll find this guy.

He seems to have numerous addresses: Nevada, California, etc. Now he lists Des Moines, Iowa, as his location (if this is to be believed). My condolences to that city.

This poor old guy sounds pretty delusional. I would encourage anyone reading his drivel to take it with a large grain of salt.

There will be more interference in El Dorado County Courts case by Ted Gunderson and his associate Michael Riconosciuto.  The upcoming murder trial of Philip Arthur Thompson charged in the 37-year-old cold case murder of Betty Cloer will put these two media magnets back in the public eye. (Click. Michael Riconosciuto Explains Why His Testimony is Essential in the cases of Richard Hamlin and Phillip Arthur Thompson)

However, Richard and Susan Hamlin are the two central figures in this tragic family melodrama that married domestic violence to Satanic ritual abuse.

Richard Hamlin is no longer in the El Dorado County Jail.  Final defense motions were resolved by Judge Keller on October 30, 2006.  The day before Thanksgiving, Richard Hamlin was transferred into the California state prison system.  On April 15, 2007 he will celebrate his forty-seventh birthday at the following address:

Richard Hamlin
CDC #49561
Housing Ad Seg 101
Deuel Vocational Institution
POB 600
Tracy, California 95378-0600

Richard writes that he is locked up 24 hours a day and would appreciate any reading materials anyone could send to him.  He concludes by saying “So onward to the appeals court where I prey justice will be found.”

Susan Hamlin, who endured seven long days testifying on the stand during her former husband’s criminal trial, is quietly carving out a new life for herself and her children.  Each of the couple’s children, with mother Susan reading the youngest’s written statement, asked that their father be given life in prison during the victim witnesses statements delivered at the father’s sentencing.  However, it was Susan’s words that contained the most damaging details as she read the following:


September 29, 2006

The Honorable Eddie T. Keller El Dorado County Superior Court Re: People vs. Richard Hamlin

Your Honor:

My name is Susan Hamlin. My children and I are the victims of domestic violence in this case -- but we are not just victims, we are survivors.
I was told prior to testifying in this trial that that was not my opportunity to tell my story.  Instead, I had to sit passively and hope that the right questions were asked.  The question and answer process, with many interruptions and objections, gave the jury a very watered down and incomplete glimpse of the terror we lived on a daily basis for a very long time.  'Victims' of domestic violence don't live to tell their story - they turn up dead - their voices forever silenced.  I did not die.  I did whatever I had to do to stay alive and save my children. I am a 'survivor' of domestic violence, and this is my statement.

I am reminded of Richard's violence and control every day of my life.  Each morning when I look in the mirror, I see a changed face.  My nose is flattened and my smile is not the same.  My breathing is impaired which affects my sleep.  My top teeth have been pushed in and my bottom teeth have been chipped.  My bite no longer fits together - I have to pull my lower jaw back in order for my bottom teeth to fit behind my top teeth. The swelling in my ears never returned to normal - they are permanently disfigured and my hearing is impaired.  I have scars from being burned with cigarettes, cut with knives, stabbed with sharp objects, and gouged with furniture.  I have pain in my back everyday that makes even the simplest things difficult, like putting on pantyhose or tying my shoes. In addition to all of these continuing physical reminders, even more painful are all the daily emotional memories of a life filled with fear, terror, panic, depression and despair.  Flashbacks are unpredictably triggered by very ordinary daily events and nightmares are frequent.

My first thought when I wake up every morning now is "Thank you God for this day."  For 2 1/2 years now I wake up, happy to be alive.  For so long, my days started and ended very differently.  I was terrified to fall asleep at night and terrified to wake up in the morning.  At night Richard held a loaded gun pointed at my head in bed, and told me if I moved, he would shoot me.  I was so afraid I would fall asleep - and move.  But I was so tired I would fall asleep for short periods of time only to wake up in a panic, desperate to recall the current version of Rick's fabricated story of my life.

What terrified me the most was the sword.  Rick waved the sword around wildly, lunged at me with the sword pointed at me, pinned me to the wall with the tip of the sword to my chest and neck, slashed at me - cutting my finger as I covered my face, and stabbed at me as I laid on the bed - slicing through the mattress instead as I rolled out of the way.  He knew how terrified I was of being stabbed and sliced and the thought of my children finding my body in pieces.  Or that my children would be left with him and unprotected.  I thought that as long as Richard was occupied with me, he would leave the children alone.  And my survival depended on my knowledge and belief of the details of Rick's fabricated story. Rick's story was supposed to be the story of my life, based on torturous 'memory-getting' sessions.  And this story changed daily.  While I had no connection to the details of his story as actual memories, I knew I had to adopt his fiction as my reality in order to stay alive.  If I questioned or rejected any part of his version of my past, or could not repeat the story with accurate detail, Richard punched me in my face; hit me in my head so hard that everything flashed white; boxed my ears; punched me in my stomach; broke furniture over my back; threw me into furniture; strangled me; stuck a loaded gun in my mouth; held burning cigarettes to my face; stabbed me in the head with sharp metal tipped pens causing blood to run down my neck and face; and threatened me with a long, sharp sword - all the while asking if I was ready to die.  I felt like it was just a matter of time before he killed me.  At times, I thought death would be preferable to the continued torture but I was afraid that if I died, Rick would use the children to help dispose of my body.  So I stayed alive.  He moved the sword into our bedroom so it would be handy for his "memory getting" sessions. Rick used this, and other weapons, to force me to say and believe what he wanted to use as "evidence" in his case against my father.

I continue to wake up at night in extreme panic, believing that my life depends on my recall of Rick's story.  Waking from sleep often takes me back to waking up next to Rick, shaking in fear and wondering if this day would be my last.

So many seemingly ordinary things trigger panic flashbacks.  Looking out the window from my desk at work one day, I saw our old mailman drive by. Suddenly, my body stated shaking uncontrollably, my breaths shortened, I began to tear up and feel the same fear and panic that I felt with Rick. It is impossible to predict what will trigger such flashbacks and how long they will continue to affect my life.  I have been in counseling for post traumatic stress syndrome since Richard's arrest.

Richard attacked every relationship in my life.  He isolated me from all family members and friends by forbidding all contact.  Richard tried to strip all meaningful relationships from me so that I was tied only to him, leaving me with no other support.  This included my siblings, father, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and even my mother who has been dead for more than 20 years.  He made 'child molester alert flyers' with my father's photos and distributed them to my dad's neighborhood and business associates.  He terrorized my extended family with mailings, phone calls at all house, vandalism of their property, and threats.  He destroyed all mementos left from my mother, including her drawings and paintings, favorite family recipes and cookbooks, family photos and wove her into his crazy story.  While relationships with family and friends still living can be repaired, these treasured mementos from my mom can never be replaced.

Simply daily errands can trigger anxiety -- after 30 minutes at Target with the kids the other day, I began to feel the same panic I used to feel when Rick was in the home -- I've got to get home, I've got to get home'.  If Rick ever came home to an empty house, it would set him off, with no telling how he would react. Our quality of life is still so affected by Rick's control of our family.

There are so many ways the children are impacted.  They will be dealing with issues stemming from their abusive home environment for the rest of their lives - there are so many wounds that I can't begin to describe them fully.  Here are a few examples:

Being in foster care was extremely damaging to all of the children, particularly to the girls because of their young ages.  Jenn watched in fear as first Ryan, and then Alec were sent to another home, all the while fearing that Clare would be moved next and she would be left by herself in a strange home with no voice or means to find her way back to Mom.  While I was allowed very liberal visitation with the children, the girls cried every day going back to their foster home, having to be peeled away from me.  When Jenn first came home from foster care, she was hitting, kicking and scratching me.  A major focus of counseling was to learn that "mommies are not for hitting."  Jenn is only eight now and has been diagnosed with gastro esophageal reflux disease brought on by stress.  She first developed this while in foster care when she vomited every night she was there.

Both girls' core sense of security was shattered.  They both developed sleep disorders and are very scared of nighttime.  They struggle with nightmares and extreme fear of the dark.  They both are afraid that someone will break in and kill them while they sleep.  One incident in particular that continues to haunt both girls is the night that Richard loaded the family into the van and drove through the neighborhood for several hours with guns, telling the kids to keep a lookout for anyone coming to kill us.  The girls were so afraid they were going to die.  Alec told the girls to go to sleep.  Clare's response was 'I'm too scared to sleep'.  Clare is still too scared to sleep.

Alec, now 14, is still so angry -- he has been in counseling for the past two years struggling to make sense of something that does not make sense. He expresses his anger and frustration toward me; and our relationship, while improving, is still in a state of healing.  Another issue we are addressing in counseling is the relationships between Alec and his younger sisters.  Aggressive behavior was learned and will have to be unlearned in order for Alec to have a chance for a healthy, happy life.

It is difficult to put into words how my oldest son Ryan has been affected.  His emotions are buried deep inside, so he appears to be very functional.  But Ryan suffered such humiliation and felt like such a fool for being so "duped" by his father into believing and acting upon his crazy story.  Ryan's mortification is evidenced by his lack of self-confidence, self-worth, shyness, self-consciousness and insecurity.  Ryan feels his embarrassment may never end due to his father's endless delays and continuing to keep this story alive in the forefront of the community where Ryan must live.

In deciding an appropriate sentence, I think it is very important to realize that Richard was and still is very calculating in his control and abuse of his family.  His violent, abusive, and cruel behavior has never been a result of "a loss of control".  He has always been very much in control - of everything.  He was very deliberate in targeting already broken bones or swollen bruised areas to hit again, and was very calculating to inflict injuries that would leave marks in places that would not be visible to others, such as in the scalp and torso - areas covered by hair or clothing. When I fell to the ground after being punched, he ordered me to get up and not act like I was hurt.  If I stayed down too long, he would kick me. When I stood back up, he would hit me again.

Richard continued to hurt this family by arguing against the children being able to come home with me.  In the divorce proceedings last year, Richard sought sole legal and physical custody of the children from his jail cell.  He manipulated me for many years by threatening to take my children from me.  There was a no contact order in place until 2007 resulting from the dependency proceedings, and yet, just in the last month, he filed a motion requesting contact with the children from jail, seeking both telephone and letter contact was well as in person visits.  Of course, to do this, he would have to have our telephone numbers and our address which we have made every effort to keep confidential because of his threats to send someone to kill us if he ever went to jail.  Richard continues to delay the process and deny us closure with his various motions and requests for more time between each motion.  Found guilty last January, it has taken us nine months to get to this sentencing hearing.  The abuse continues as he keeps his story in the public eye by writing letters to the editor of the local papers, posting letters on his website where he continues to slander me and my family.  His children have read that he is calling them liars.  Any thoughts that their father may be released from jail causes anxiety. They need closure in these proceedings and confidence that their father will not be able to harm them further.

We are survivors because we did what we had to do in order to stay alive.  Richard's actions show a complete disregard for the law.  We are safe now only because Richard is in custody. Richard's release from custody would put me and the children in danger, in addition to many others.  He continues to spew his crazy story.  His "hit list" targets me, my father, my step-mother, her mother, my sister, my three brothers, my friends, friends of my father and many other innocent people.

We are survivors now, but if Richard Hamlin is ever released, we will be his victims again.  Remember, victims end up dead and their voices forever silenced.  I wake each morning thanking God that I'm alive.  I end each day the same way -- every day a gift.  As a survivor, I will attend every parole hearing to make sure that the parole board recognizes there are real people at risk.  Richard Hamlin should never be released.

After several trips to Placerville Chris Cuomo and ABC’s Primetime finally got their show is the can.  Then no one from the program had the courtesy to let others in the media and/or anyone in the hillside community know in advance the date that the Hamlin case would get its fifteen minutes of fame on national television.  Finally under the title “Brainwashed by Her Husband” the show aired on February 6, 2007. (Click. Primetime’s 'Brainwashed' )

Susan Hamlin was quoted on ABC’s Primetime as saying “My kids and I will be dealing with issues from this abusive situation for the rest of our lives.  So in that sense, no, we’re never free from it. But I’m no longer under his control.  His brainwashing no longer has any effect. My thoughts are my own now. So, in that sense, I feel free.”

While Richard Hamlin remains imprisoned and Susan Hamlin is beginning to feel free once again, the readers who followed this story remain fixated - entrapped in the web it wove.  The statistics assembled every night indicate the daily “hits” received by the Hamlin series on remain high.

This author received and continues to receive countless emails from readers regarding this case.

Without regard to gender, there is a strong response from self-described Christians concerned about the Satanic issues addressed in the Hamlin Series. The vast majority of correspondence is from so-called “father’s rights groups” and advocates of what is known as “common law”.  Surprisingly, this series generated virtually no feedback from women’s rights groups or advocates for stronger enforcement of domestic violence laws.  It is in direct response to hundreds of reader requests that this update is provided.

Placerville, California -- today nothing has changed in that quiet spot in El Dorado County.  It is as though the turmoil and confusion injected into the community by the torture trial of a husband and father never happened.  Gone are the newspaper reporters, the still photographers, the television pundits and the satellite trucks that disrupted Placerville for several months in the winter of 2006.  The intruders are not missed by the residents as they prepare for another snowy winter.  The Best Conspiracy Litigation in California is now just another part of Hangtown’s long history

Virginia McCullough © 3/13/07