Charges Filed in Old Racine Murder

Apr. 1, 2024 9:15p

(WGTD)---An apparent re-examination of existing evidence in a cold case in Racine has led to the filing of a murder charge against an 83-year-old man.

Fred Wagner-Richardson appeared in court Monday where bond was set at $50,000.

For years, Wagner-Richardson had been the prime suspect in the death of his estranged wife, Derby Wagner-Richardson. In 1987, the 28-year-old woman was apparently abducted from her overnight security job. Wagner-Richardson's body--with her throat and wrists slashed and mouth taped shut with white duct tape--was found in the trunk of her car.

Various pieces of evidence in the circumstantial case led police to the defendant. According to the complaint, a police officer, unaware of the murder, had noted a car similar to the victim's parked in front of property owned by the defendant in the hours following her disappearance in 1987. A pair of bolt cutters apparently used to gain entry to the victim's workplace was the same type of tool that the defendant had in his possession, according to a former employee, who also told police that Wagner-Richardson had a habit of using duct tape that was white in color. An imprint of a pointed toe boot was found at the fence line that was cut to gain entry to the workplace. The defendant purportedly wore that type of boot.  

Also, the couple had a history of domestic violence. One such instance was witnessed by the victim's daughter and led to the defendant's conviction on an assault charge following the woman's death. 

Charges filed Monday against Wagner-Richardson also include possession of a firearm by a felon. The defendant was convicted of armed robbery in 1962.

The murder was never far from the minds of investigators. Earlier this year, two detectives took another look at the case, and it was that review that led to Monday's charges.