Richard Wade Farley is an American convicted mass murderer. A former employee of Electromagnetic Systems Labs (ESL) in Sunnyvale, California, he stalked co-worker Laura Black for four years beginning in 1984. Black obtained a temporary restraining order against him on February 2, 1988, with a court date set for February 17, 1988 to make the order permanent.
On February 16, 1988, Richard Farley shot and killed seven people at ESL and wounded four others, including Laura Black. He was convicted of seven counts of first degree murder, and is currently sitting on death row at San Quentin.
The Stalking of Laura Black
Richard Farley first met Laura Black (who was twenty-three years old at the time) in April 1984 at a company function. When Black did not accept his advances, Farley began leaving gifts, including cards and home-made bread, on Black’s desk. Despite her refusals, Richard Farley persisted. He began calling her desk every few hours as well as showing up at Black’s aerobics class. By giving false information to ESL HR department through pre-texting, Farley was able to obtain Black’s home address and home phone number.
Richard Farley was also known to have befriended the custodial department in order to copy Black’s desk keys so he could rifle through her belongings in order to gain insight into her life. He is also known to have sifted through confidential personnel files of Black through false pretenses.
At this time, Richard Farley was sending one or two letters to Laura per week. Although there were periods of times when the letters would cease, in total Farley sent about two hundred letters over a period of four years, with the last letter sent from his prison cell after his rampage at ESL. Black moved four times during those four years, but each time she did, Richard Farley had managed to locate her address again.
In autumn of 1985, Laura Black asked the Human Resources Department at ESL for help. ESL ordered Farley to attend psychological counseling sessions, and although he attended these sessions, his harassment of Black continued. By spring of 1986, Richard Farley was threatening fellow ESL employees, which, combined with his poor work performance, led ESL to terminate his employment in May 1986. He had been working at ESL for ten years. He spent several months stalking Black full time, then found work at a rival company.
Farley delighted in setting up impossible situations for Laura Black, taking her lack of answer as an affirmative, and any communication, even negative, as encouragement. For example, he called and left a message to set up a date, which she ignored. Since she didn’t say no, he showed up at her door in anticipation. When she told him to go away, he took it as proof that she was playing games with him. There was also evidence that Farley tried testing code combinations for hours on a garage opener trying to open Black’s garage. He also once tried to rent the adjoining unit to Black’s in the same complex, forcing Black to move away.
Richard Farley continued to write letters to Laura Black in 1987. He wrote in one such letter, “… The shit has hit the fan… all because you thought I’m a joke and refuse to listen or understand that I am gravely serious.” By this time, Farley had lost his house due to foreclosure and was under investigation by the IRS for owing taxes. However, his harassment never stopped.
In January 1988, Black found a package on her car windshield. Inside was a note from Richard Farley, with a copy of her house key.
The Shooting at ESL
Laura Black filed for a temporary restraining order against Richard Farley on February 2, 1988 and it was granted by a family court judge. A court date was set for February 17, 1988 to see if the restraining order should be made permanent.
Richard purchased a shotgun and extra ammunition on February 9, 1988. The restraining order did not prevent him from buying weapons during that time. He also owned a variety of other weapons including two revolvers, another shotgun, and a rifle. The next day, he left a package with Black’s attorney, claiming to have evidence that he and Black had a longstanding relationship, such as dinner receipts, phone call recordings, and so on. Richard Farley even claimed that Black kept a secret stash of cocaine that they shared once. Black’s attorney dismissed the package as utter fabrications.
One day before the court date, on February 16, 1988, Richard Farley drove his motorhome to the ESL parking lot in Sunnyvale, California. He later claimed he waited for Black to leave work so he could convince her to rescind the restraining order. If she refused, he would kill himself. At about 3 p.m., Richard Farley loaded up his various guns, including a .38 automatic, a .357 Magnum, a .22 rifle, and two shotguns. He put on an ammunition vest, inserted earplugs, and put on leather gloves.
Enter Stage Left
Richard Farley then walked in through a side door by shooting the glass, and began shooting while heading toward Black’s office on the second floor. Several employees were killed by his shots as he made his way through his former employer’s building. Arriving at Black’s office, he opened her door which she slammed in his face. He fired one shot through the door, which missed Black. The second shot hit her left shoulder and sent her unconscious to the floor. Richard Farley moved on.
Farley then held police SWAT team at bay for five hours by moving from room to room so the SWAT snipers could not target him. Meanwhile, Laura Black woke up and managed to stop her wound from further bleeding while she and other survivors hid from Farley. Eventually Black and other survivors escaped, and Richard Farley surrendered to police on the promise of a sandwich and a soda. A total of seven people were killed by Farley, and four more wounded, including Black. A total of 98 rounds were fired in ESL by Farley.
The next day, court commissioner Lois Kittle made the restraining order against Richard Farley permanent. Commissioner Kittle, through tears, offered this comment: “Pieces of paper do not stop bullets.”
Laura Black survived, but was hospitalized for nineteen days. She continued to work for the same company. Farley wrote her yet again from his prison cell, claiming that she had finally won.
During trial, Richard Farley admitted to the killings, but pleaded “not guilty”, claiming that he never planned to kill but only wished to get Black’s attention or commit suicide in front of her for rejecting him. His attorney claimed that Farley never was a violent man and only had his judgment temporarily clouded by his obsession with Laura Black, and that Richard Farley will likely never kill again.
The prosecution documented every step of the stalking, produced all the letters he sent, and documented his shotgun and ammunition purchase a week before his rampage at ESL, as well as his other weapons. All this amounted to extensive planning, which was evidence of premeditation.
On October 21, 1991, Richard Farley was convicted of all seven counts of first degree murder. Superior Court Judge Joseph Biafore Jr. sentenced Farley to death. Due to California law, there are several automatic appeals. As of 2009, Farley is still serving his time in San Quentin Prison. Prior to the shooting, Richard Farley had no criminal record.
On July 2, 2009 the California Supreme Court upheld Farley’s death sentence.
In the wake of this case and the high profile murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, California passed the first anti-stalking laws in the nation.
credit murderpedia / wikipedia