Richard Uffelman

In 1987 Michael and Florence Phillips moved from their Indiana home with their 8 year old son, Mike, to a new home in a small village in Maine named Machiasport.  It was said that part of the reason for their move was to go some place more quiet and with less crime. Little did they know that two years later the ultimate crime would happen to them just mere yards from their own front door.

Some have described what occurred in this little town as a sort of a Hatfield's and McCoy fight.  That of course depends on who you talk to.  Police would later say that for nearly every incident report filed by the Phillips' or their neighbors, the Uffelman's there was a crowd of witnesses on either side defending the story of their friend or relative while the other side did the same and the stories never seemed to match.  Authorities were left to try and decide which side was telling the truth and the often could not make that decision. Even after Michael and Florence Phillips were gun downed outside their home in August of 1989 by Richard Uffelman and his two young sons many people could not agree on how or why it happened. And, unlike the Hatfield's and McCoy fights and murders, this one was actually videotaped.  

Now if you do a search about this case most of the information you are going to find is about that fateful day in August.  You will hear of a few incidents here and there happening between the two neighbors but you do not get a lot of information.  And there again however, you get the opinion of the person telling of the incident along with their bias opinion of what occurred.  According to Anita Uffelman, Richard's wife, things seemed to start out well between the families.  She claims that the Phillips' son Mike was often cared for by them.  From my research it seems that things possibly started to change when a window at the Uffelman home was hit by an item from a slingshot.  To be honest, I found little information as to what exactly occurred in this incident.  I cannot tell you if it was an accident; I cannot say if the neighbors may have then argued over compensation; In fact, I cannot even say for sure that the incident occurred at all.  What I can say is that authorities have said that Richard Uffelman filed over 40 complaints against his neighbor in the six months leading up the murder.  Apparently the Phillips had also filed their own complaints too.  The only real incident that seemed to have been substantiated, at least in the form that something happened, occurred in early July of 1989.  The Uffelman's were apparently in their pool when they say gunfire erupted near them.  The police were called and the husband of Florence Phillips niece, Colby Kilton, was arrested but he was never charged with anything pertaining to the incident.  Once again I am uncertain as to what exactly happened here. This case was featured on the ID channel on an episode of "Fear Thy Neighbor" and as I recall Colby and his wife were living with the Phillips' at the time and they soon moved due to the issues going on but I cannot recall any discussion of this particular incident.  The area was not exactly a complete rural area, but it was not a bustling city area either.  Apparently gun fire in the area was not something that was uncommon and not just from the Phillips home.  In fact, authorities would find over 38 loaded assault weapons in the Uffelman home after the murders and the children openly acknowledged they had a shooting range in their yard they used for target practice.  What I suppose I am trying to say here is that just because there was gun fire, does not mean anyone was being aimed at, but then again it does not mean they were not either.  

The Uffelman children would later claim that it was at this point in which Richard Uffelman really stepped up his game, so to speak, in their gun training.  Some would argue that Richard Uffelman was simply a very paranoid man that was pushed to his limits by his neighbors while others would claim his paranoia did not need to be fed as he did that himself.  

On the evening of August 29, 1989 the Phillips set up their camcorder in their kitchen facing the Uffelman house just as they did many nights before taking their evening walk.  Their 10 year old son, Mike, was there with a few friends.  Not long later the boys would hear gun fire and take cover.  A jury would later see just what the camcorder recorded as well as hear Uffelman's story.  First, just what did the tape show? It showed the Phillips walking a route that apparently they did often that went just past the Uffelman home.  I have to play devil's advocate here in saying that I have no idea if the Phillips could have enjoyed an evening walk without walking past the Uffelman home or not, and I do not have enough information to know if they would have.  Apparently the camcorder was being used because they had filed a harassment suit against the Uffelman's and they needed proof.  At any rate, although the Phillips' were out just of range of the camera gun fire could be heard and flashes from gun barrels could be seen coming from the picture window of the Uffelman's home.  Next the camera shows Richard Uffelman coming out of the home armed with a gun and a few more shots were heard.  Richard Uffelman returns to his home only to emerge once more with both of his sons.  Once again one more gun shot is heard as they are all just out of range of the video camera and then the Uffelman's return again to their home. During one of his trips inside the home Richard Uffelman himself called the police.  

Richard Uffelman was obviously arrested, and his home was searched.  The police were stunned at what they found.  Inside were over 30 guns loaded and in nearly every room of the house, including the bathroom, there were several security systems, there was trip wire in the yard, there were secret rooms and passageways within the house, and there were sirens and even aircraft landing lights attached to the house.  Authorities would describe it as a fort.  Although it was obvious from the beginning from the video tape, as well as Richard Uffelman's own bragging that his young sons were also involved the authorities decided not to charge them for a few reasons.  One was that they were unsure of the influence that Richard had enacted on his sons and if they could have proved anything anyway.  Secondly, because they were juveniles their punishment would have been to be placed in foster homes.  It was quickly decided that a foster home was the best option anyway so to charge the boys to give them the same "punishment" as they were already giving them seemed useless.  

Just as every time the police would show after a complaint had been filed and would hear two different stories, those on the streets in Machiasport seemed to also take sides in the situation.  There were those who believed that the Phillips' continued to push what some saw as an unstable man to his limits and then there were others who believed an unstable man had acted irrationally.  The only thing that seemed to ring true with everyone was that Uffelman was unstable.  According to a former babysitter of the Uffelman's the Phillips' would throw bottles into the Uffelman yard and take their mail.  Now, where she got this information I cannot say.  And then there was the other side.  A man by the name of Bob Kord would later say that he had hired Uffelman to be a peace officer in the small nearby fishing village of Cutler in 1978, long before the Phillips came to Maine.  There was very little crime there and at the time the peace officer was not to carry a gun.  According to Kord, Uffelman was on the job less than a week when he shot a dog in the center of town and Kord knew that he had hired the wrong person for the job and promptly fired Uffelman.  He said because of this Uffelman had threatened to kill him and blow up his house with a homemade rocket. 

Richard Uffelman finally went to trial in October of 1991.  His lawyers had attempted an insanity plea but the jury ultimately rejected that and he was convicted on two counts of murder.  He received a 50 year sentence in the death of Michael and a life sentence in the death of Florence.  Richard even got up on the stand to tell his side of the story.... and what a story it was! According to him, he had been laying on the couch going over a 40 page report he had sent to the Attorney General of Maine when he fell asleep.  He claimed that one of his sons woke him up frightened saying "Daddy, they're coming!"  Richard and his two sons grabbed their guns and went to the picture window of the home just as the Phillips' were taking their walk near their home. Richard would claim that Michael Phillips was making faces and gestures at him. Not far down the road they turned around to head back.  Richard would claim (although by 1999 both boys would deny this) that one of the boys saw that Michael Phillips had a gun in a holster in his pants and it was at this point that the Uffelman's would begin firing.  It was a bit unclear if in fact that Richard fired at this point because it was said that the caliber bullets that hit the Phillips' belonged to the guns Rick and Jerry Uffelman were using as Richard was using another.  At any rate the boys fired somewhere between 20 and 30 rounds, several of the bullets hitting the couple.  It was then that Uffelman had gone out and shot them each again as they lay on the side of the road. These shots were made to the heads and were likely the shots that killed them.  Then when Richard came back out with his boys he shot Michael Phillips once more in the chest.

So why did Richard say he had actually done it and what his problem was with the Phillips'? Well that is where it got even more weird.  Richard would claim at his trial (and subsequently again in his 1999 bid for a new trial, of which he lost) that he was an "unpaid undercover government agent" who had uncovered a drug/espionage conspiracy and claimed that the Phillips were involved, hence why they harassed  him and his family.  He also claimed that he had fled New Jersey years prior when that same job had enabled him to expose police corruption.  For the record none of these claims were or could be substantiated and most people believe that these claims were proof of his delusions.  When Richard was on the stand describing the murders, the training he had provided his sons, as well as their actions in the incident he came off as sounding proud.  Neither his wife or his children testified at his trial in 1991. 

Mike Phillips, the Phillips' now 12 year old son did seem to testify or at the very least gave his story of things were told also.  Besides telling of what he heard and saw on the day of August 29, 1989 he also stated that Uffelman was "always yelling at us with a bullhorn and shining spotlights on us."  This apparently was just part of the harassment that the Phillips would claim to police and obviously some of what they were trying to prove by having the video tape running.   As I also recall from the television show I watched, although did not find in my research itself, the Phillips had returned from a visit to Indiana at some point and felt things did not quite look right with their house and feared that something had been tampered with by Uffelman.

In 1993 Uffelman filed an appeal with the courts.  He had three main points that he felt should be addressed.  The first was that he was denied a speedy trial.  The courts looked at this issue and although they agreed that there was a significant period of time between his arrest and his trial they also determined that the delays were much the fault of the defense as they had asked for independent psychological testing, and a change of venue, among other things.  He also of course argued that he had ineffective counsel at trial.  This is so often argued in appeals that it is almost standard procedure.  This was denied by the courts, but it also may have been the reason for them allowing a bid for a retrial in 1999.  In 1996 Richard Uffelman's trial lawyer, Kevin Wall, was disbarred for professional misconduct.  This plays a significant part in another area of this case however that I will discuss in a bit.  In his last argument in his appeal, Uffelman argued that the judge had erred in some of the instructions given to the jury.  It too was denied by the courts.

After his parents' death Mike Phillips went to live with his sister Sandra in Indiana. Apparently between having trouble dealing with the murder of his parents, as well as some discord in Sandra's marriage, within a few years Mike was in a group home and had a rough time the next few years.  In 1992 Sandra, and also representing Mike, filed a wrongful death suit against the Uffelman's.  It had been determined that almost immediately after his death that Richard Uffelman had attempted to transfer all his assets into his father's name.  A judge would later determine that this was a fraudulent move.  Also, a few short months after the murders the Uffelman home caught fire.  There were mysterious chemicals inside the home and it forced the firefighters who responded to simply watch the fire burn to which of course the entire home was lost.  An insurance company paid the Uffelman's $150,000 for their claim.  Then a year after his trial Richard Uffelman's father, Francis, died and left his insurance and estate of over $250,000 to his only son. It was argued that at the time of the murders the Uffelman's also had 5 collectible cars, as well as some military and coin collections that were said to be very valuable.  In 1994 Sandra and Mike won their wrongful death suit and the judge awarded them $513,320, plus interest... essentially of the Uffelman's assets at the time.  A journalist would contend that by 2001 Mike Phillips had received nothing from this judgement.  The journalist would go on to say that he had discovered that both the Uffelman boys (who were returned to their mother's care after about 3 years in the foster care system) had gone on to college, and at least one of them had gone to a very prestigious "top Ivy League School."  The journalist did not name the school, nor the children as at least one apparently changed his last name, saying his intention was not to bring more pain to the boys who next to the Phillips' were victimized the most, but to point out that many people not serving a life sentence for murder, and not having a judgement of this magnitude against them could not afford an Ivy League education for their children.  When Richard himself was asked about things he would claim that his trial lawyer, Kevin Wall, had stolen the money from him and that he did not have it anymore.  The journalist pointed out that there was never a claim filed against Wall in this matter, nor would it ever be mentioned in any setting in court, even when Wall testified in 1999 at Uffelman's bid for a new trial.  The journalist would go on to claim that he felt that Wall was a significant scapegoat in which authorities in Maine used in order to not look into the matter.  

As I stated earlier, I suspect that Kevin Wall's disbarment likely led the courts into allowing the filing for the new trial in 1999.  There apparently were several days of hearing in which Uffelman's wife and boys all testified.  It was here that the boys seemed to refute the idea that they saw a gun on Michael Phillips as he neared the home and both claim it was Richard who told them about the weapon.  However, a man by the name of Phillip Harvey said that he had taken Anita Uffelman and her  boys into his home just after the murders and that both boys told him they saw Phillips with a weapon.  It would be difficult to prove if the boys actually did see it or were doing as they were told to do by their father and claim that they had when they really did not so that their stories seemed to match.  At this hearing Uffelman again testified and while out one side of his mouth argued that he disagreed with the insanity plea in his trial, he continued to maintain his undercover story and his belief that the Phillips were involved.  It was also at this hearing that the boys, testified that while they were in the foster care system they had received several notes from their father, secretly, that outlined what he expected them to say or believe had happened leading up to and including the murders. 

It is my opinion that Richard Uffelman was obviously a paranoid person who had issues with more than just the Phillips apparently.  There is a part of me that understands that the police had trouble determining just who was doing what and what story to believe when they would show up for a complaint but then there is a part of me that says they should have seen that Richard Uffelman was likely deteriorating in his mental ability.  In 1989 it was way different than it is in 2015 and authorities had much more lead way when it came to mental health issues than they do now.  Then again, where was Anita Uffelman through all of this?  Why was she allowing her sons to be trained in "laying suppression fire" as was testified?  How could she not see that her husband had lost a grip on reality or did she really believe his stories?  Was she possibly just as unstable as he was?  And the bigger question is, just how much, if any, role did the Phillips play in this?  Did they really do as the former Uffelman babysitter said they did with throwing things into the Uffelman yard and stealing their mail or was this former babysitter getting her information from the Uffelman's and simply believed it?  There was never any evidence what so ever to Richard Uffelman's claim that the Phillips were involved in a drug conspiracy so that is generally considered to be false, whether he believed it or not.  Did he believe they were stealing his mail and simply told the woman who believed what she heard simply because he said it?  Regardless the answer to any of these questions the Phillips did not deserve to die, especially in the manner in which they did.  It seems though that the only answer to solve all of this would have been for one of the families to move, which neither could or would it seems.  Then again who is to say if the Phillips had moved and the "Smith's" moved in that it would not have been the "Smith's" that were now dead? No one could obviously predict the future but it seems that Richard Uffelman needed and continues (at least he did in 1999) to need some sort of mental help. According to the Maine Department of Corrections website it seems that "life" means life in Maine and there is no date of a possible release time for Richard Uffelman so regardless of his mental state it seems he will never be release to the general public. 


Comments

  1. Sounds like some piss poor police work and another case of the almighty justice system to blame here. If there is an arrest and murder charge issued in a case, it should be put to trial the very next day. Why pussy foot around with something this serious, and have the accused hide their assets and have witnesses forget things.

    I am afraid that is no different now adays then it was in 1989.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I personally know the one son who went to an ivy league college as you call it. He paid for his college on his own. Despite the traumatic childhood he suffered at the hands of his father he turned out to be a hardworking, kind, considerate and God fearing young man. He pays student loans til this day. I felt the need to correct that false assumption that his family paid for his schooling because they didn't. As horrible as his father's crime was, this young man deserves to live a life apart from this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When someone is "god fearing", I fear them.

      Delete
    2. That kind, God fearing, young man pumped maybe 20 rounds into two people walking past his house, so there's that to consider.

      Delete
    3. Oh boy he's paid his student loans... & that means what exactly? Yes they were just children, but in their heart they had to of known killing is a sin & they fired 20-25 rounds??? They did... I was abused as a child, just as many of us have been, but it never crossed my mind to hurt anyone or anything. People will say "oh their father filled their heads with gibberish", but in my eyes being a victim of many crimes... I could NEVER hurt another person NEVER!!! Being filled in my own head this is how life is & I am suppose to do what my parents say or do what my predictor did to me?? No way!!! These aren't lil babies either. Being 10 or 12 you know tight from wrong & I hope they're not in the same mindset they was in 1989 or someone somewhere is f'ed. Just sayin. Hope & pray they have had lots of positive encouragement. Kids these days are in a fantasy life & live off what is on the internet or stupid make believe apps & videos that most of this generation do not know what is real. Imagine this in 1989??? Having internet & fantasy...

      Delete
  3. Here is my view on this. Let's assume the Phillips family or rather Parents really did make a shooting motion, a big if, but let's assume it. They are both shot and incapacitated. On the video you only see the shots coming from just one direction. This man , Uffelman, who has called the cops over 40 plus times over every conceivable reason, at this point, chooses to Not Call the Cops , when the Phillips are across the street shot and probably dying or dead, and then comes over to them to shoot at them again ! There was no imminent danger at that point.

    ReplyDelete
  4. He was obviously a paranoid nutjob and I'm going to assume his wife knew better than to leave him.

    What I don't understand is why the family didn't leave. One's life is way more important than standing one's ground. I would have avoided that crackpot at all costs, not walk by his house. No victim blaming, but if you understand paranoid heavily armed crazy, you don't stick around to see if they mean their threats.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Matthew Heikkila

The Quinn Hanna Gray Kidnapping

Patricia Rorrer