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Father Of 8-Year-Old Son Killed In Boston Marathon Bombing Brought Jurors To Tears

Bill Richard, father of the youngest person killed at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, testified Thursday at the trial of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Last updated on March 6, 2015, at 12:51 p.m. ET

Posted on March 5, 2015, at 5:09 p.m. ET


BOSTON — Bill Richard climbed into the witness stand Thursday at the trial of accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and told a federal jury about the day his 8-year-old son died.

There were two blasts on April 15, 2013, and after the second one, Richard said he was blown into the street. A few seconds later, he made his way back to his family: two sons, Martin and Henry, their 6-year-old sister Jane, and his wife, Denise. He already knew that it was too late for Martin.

"I saw Denise and other people hovering over trying to help Martin. I knew that I needed to get back and help Jane. When I saw Martin's condition I knew that he wasn't going to make it," Richard said.

His wife agreed. Their daughter Jane's left leg had been blown off at the ankle and Richard wanted to go with her in the ambulance.

"Given what I saw, it was at that time that I saw my son alive barely for the last time," he testified.

Asked if he said anything to Martin before he left his son, Richard simply replied, "No."

Richard's testimony brought some of the jurors to tears and was accompanied by a major piece of evidence for the prosecution — the surveillance video recovered by the FBI from the Forum restaurant on Boylston Street. It's the location where the Richard family was standing at the time of the explosion.

Prosecutor Bill Weinreb prepared the jury for the video the day before during his opening statement and said that it would show the defendant walking down the sidewalk in front of the Forum with a backpack slung over his shoulder, then at one point they would see him without it.

The clip was first shown to the jury Thursday afternoon during Boston Police Officer Thomas Barrett's testimony.

Barrett — who was stationed across the street that day and can be seen on tape running toward the Forum after the explosion — recalled the scene.

"When I first got there, there was so many people that were hurt seriously that it was hard to choose who to help first," he said.

In the video, jurors saw a man in a backwards-facing white baseball hat with a backpack casually walking behind the crowd pressed up against the marathon course. The man lingers behind the crowd for about three minutes, then walks away. About 10 seconds later, a flash appears on the screen.

Earlier on Thursday, the government called the FBI agents who retrieved the video from the Forum, an FBI computer scientist who worked on recovering and preserving the video, and Roseann Sdoia, a woman injured in the second blast who lost her right leg.

A tearful Sdoia described the chaos outside the Forum while an image of her mangled right leg appeared in a photo for jurors to examine.

"It was almost like I was starring in a horror movie," she said. "Somebody told me to get out of there. I told them I couldn't get up."

The second explosion outside the Forum is also the blast that claimed the life of Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu.

In her testimony, Boston Police Officer Lauren Woods talked about staying with Lu and performing CPR on her on the pavement until her superiors made her leave.

"She was part of the crime scene now," Woods remembered her captain telling her.

Jane Flavell Collins / AP

Bill Richard is depicted while testifying during the federal death penalty trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, second from left, Thursday, March 5, 2015, in Boston.

Richard's testimony, though, was delivered the most impact.

He spoke in a calm fashion — pausing at times to gain his composure, but never getting choked up. Twice, when he identified photos of his family for the jury, he referred to his daughter as "that's Jane with two legs."

Marathon Monday, as the day is known locally, had become an annual tradition for him. He and his wife and children take the train from their home in Dorchester to downtown Boston. "We made it a ritual to go in."

Richard can still recall almost every detail of 2013's race day, including the flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream his kids ate before they made their way toward the finish line on Boylston St.

"I can even remember the details of what they each ordered," he said.

During his testimony, the government pulled up a still image from the Forum video that showed the man in the backwards white cap standing behind the Richard family on the sidewalk.

"Did you ever see this man with the white hat turned backwards?" prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini asked him.

"Until today, in person, no," Richard replied.

Prosecutors only showed a small portion of the surveillance video from outside the Forum during his testimony.

As Richard sat on the stand, footage rolled of him trying to pull the steel barrier — the same railing that his children were standing on moments before — off the pile of bodies on Boylston Street. Jane could then be seen quickly falling after trying to get up.

On the tape, Richard puts both his hands to his head.

"I'm trying to process what's happening," he said, describing what he saw on the video.

After the bombing, Richard accompanied Jane and Henry to Boston Children's Hospital. Jane's left leg was amputated below the knee. He and his surviving son were treated for burns and other injuries.

Richard also sustained severe damage to his hearing. To this day, there is a constant ringing in his ears.

"I can still hear you. I can still hear music. I can still hear the beautiful voices of my family," Richard said during his testimony.

Hours after they had been separated after the bombing, Richard got a call from his wife at Beth Israel Hospital.

"She told me that Martin was dead," he said. "I told her, 'I know.'"

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.