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Richard Chester Jahnke murder 11/16/1982 Cheyenne, WY *Shot and killed by son, Richard Jr., after years of abuse*



Find-A-Grave: Richard Chester Jahnke
Youths Deny Killing Father
Teens plotted father’s death
16-year-old describes killing father
Jury gets case of boy, 16, who killed father
Conviction Satisfies Jahnke
Sentence Of Jahnke Too Harsh
$50,000 appeal bond set for Wyoming teen
Group seeks to spare boy jail
Wyoming Conviction Upheld
Discover Classics
Sentence cut in Wyoming slaying
Youth Who Killed Father Discharged From Detention Center In Wyoming
Girl Who Helped Brother Kill Dad To Get Probation
‘It’s You or Me, Dad’
Boy guilty of manslaughter in ambush slaying of father
Wyoming teen who killed father to end beatings gets 5-to-15 years
WY – Richard Jahnke, 38, shot to death, Cheyenne, 16 Nov 1982
Excerpt from “Understanding Parricide: When Sons and Daughters Kill Parents”
Governor commutes Jahnke sentence

Poison Tree: A True Story of Family Terror
[Very good true crime book about a teenager who kills his father after years of abuse. It is well written and interesting. It is a sad story all around. I recommend this book, especially to those who read true crime.]

Right To Kill

Richard Jahnke Jr. Deborah Jahnke


45 Responses

  1. I saw the movie on the Jahnke murder in Cheyenne & I am near the age of the kids involved & live about 100 miles from Cheyenne. I have always been interested in what happened to the family since. Is Richard still in prison& if so how much longer on his sentence. Are Deborah & her mother ok now? Please send me an e-mail with update, if possible!

  2. Excerpt from the January 25, 1985 New York Times
    “….Deborah Ann Jahnke, whose prison sentence for aiding in the 1982 slaying of her abusive father was commuted by Gov. Ed Herschler of Wyoming, was released today from a Denver youth center, her attorner said.

    Miss Jahnke, 19 years old, will enroll at the University of Wyoming in Laramie for the spring semester, her attorney, Terry Mackey, said.

    Miss Jahnke and her brother Richard, 18, were convicted in the ambush slaying of their father, Richard C. Jahnke, 38. The elder Mr. Jahnke was shot to death in the driveway of his home by his son on Nov. 16, 1982. Testimony at the trial indicated the father had physically and psychologically abused his two children for years.

    Miss Jahnke’s brother was convicted in February 1983 of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison, but the sentence was commuted last June. Miss Jahnke was convicted in a separate trial of aiding and abetting voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to up to eight years in prison; her sentence was commuted in December.”

  3. I recently read “Poison Tree” about the Jehnke murder. Any idea what’s become of the kids? Were they able to live “normal” productive lives? What’s Richard & Karen doing now?

  4. I actually went to school and had a class with Richard Jahnke. I felt bad for him as you could tell he was emotionally unstable at that time. Hopefully his life is in order now……

  5. I’d like to edit the last comment by saying that when I went to school with him, it was after the fact…..

  6. I went to high school with Richard and his sister Debbie at Central High in Cheyenne. Richard was a very good guy and one would not have know anything was amiss except for the occasional mark or bruise on the face, which was not an odd thing for us back then. We were your average boys, you know playing hard and getting knocked about and all that. We later found out that some of those marks were as a result of his dad. Debbie on the other hand was definitely an introvert and you could tell that something wasn’t right with her. I think she was the one most abused, and Richard probably felt that he had to protect her from their dad. I remember my dad and I took him home a couple of times after school and he was very nervous about the whole situation and would insist on being dropped off at the street, away from his house. We were both in JROTC together and I think it was a good outlet for him. I just wish he could have made it out of his house before things developed the way they did. I don’t know Richard or Debbie’s status right now. I haven’t seen either one for over 20 years. I hope their lives have some semblance of being normal.

  7. I saw the made for t.v. movie and do not know anything personal about the family but feel horrible if something even remotely happened like that.

    The family could not possibly be “cured” from their family situation but wouldn’t it be nice if they could go on to live productive lives in spite of it all?

  8. I was in the girl’s home with Deborah in Colorado. I can say that she was a great friend to many girls there. I haven’t seen the movie/TV movie, nor have I read any books on it. I felt it very uncomfortable for Deborah back then and I guess I never felt comfortable with reading about it, or watching movies about it. I would really like to know how she and her brother are doing though. If anyone has any info, please pass it on…Thanks and by the way, I found this site while searching for another. Haven’t thought much about 20+ years ago. Small world as I was from CO when place into the girls’ home and now live in Cheyenne.

  9. I used to ride bus#32
    With the Jahnkè’s and remember driving by and seeing the shotgun blast covered hole which they had covered from the inside so you could see the size and shape of the hole it was very eerie.

  10. I recently found out that both Richard and Deborah have changed their names and have both been married twice. Richard has children

  11. I remember seeing the movie when I was about 14. I have always wondered what happened to them. I ,for the life of me cant understand why they were ever charged. I just hope they can find inner peace and happiness. If anyone in this world deserves it they do. God bless them.

    • God bless you , as well , Colleen .
      Hearing the story of what happened to that young man and his sister years ago, and learning more about subsquently saddens me beyond words . Their father was a monster , a misbegotten sadistic piece of crass alpha male garbage who should have been incarcerated years ago. It is deplorable that the mother : Mrs.Janke would be ambivalent and defend that worthless, cretinous husband of hers R.C.Jankhe Senior, on occasion .

      Richard Jankhe Jr. reportedly stated regretting killing his father . Granted, it would have been a better state of affairs if the father had been incarcerated with 40 years to life for having abused his son and apparently molested his daughter and such circumstances were unnecessary. However, if no other options were available then he should not regret what he did , for in addition to ending the abuse which was directed towards him , but he delivered his sister from more nightmarish treatment from that cretin father of theirs . Parents who physically /sexually abuse their children to such a brutal degree forfeit any honor , and the commandment about honoring father and mother does *not* apply to such abusive monsters. Furthermore, Richard Jankhe Senior reportedly told his son to fight back, when he was abusing his son , so in an ironic way , Richard Jankhe Jr was following perhaps the only good advice his father may have given him !

      I just hope to God Richard and Deborah Jankhe will find peace in life .

      May the Creator even have mercy on the polluted soul of Richard Chester Janke : the evil father of that young man and woman .
      May his perverse personality, however, be painlessly erased .

      Reportedly Richard Chester Jankhe was an army seargent before becoming an IRS agent . If so , he was indeed a complete disgrace to the U.S. Military .

  12. I saw the movie”Right to kill?” when I was 13.Before that I never heard of this family but after the movie saw them on 60 minutes and Donahue.I cried for days afterward.I was shocked by the movie,call me sheltered but I had never seen anything so brutal as how that father was depicted.I was on the kids side,I thought of course he deserved to die.It was the talk at schoolevery single kid agreed with Richard shooting his dad.My mom was the only one I knew who felt different.”He was a brutal man”she said but killing him was no small deal.She blamed the mother because she wanted to know why didn’t she leave.How could she watch her kids get beat like that? I have to agree,I have kids,I hate taking them to the dentist! Thier pain is my worst agony.My mom was in a similar situation with my dad so on the interview on 60 minutes when Maria says”you do not know what fear can do” Well my mom said”Chickenshit!,I do know,my husband beat me and I left when my kids came along”Thank God I never had to grow up with someone like that.My mom did have helpful parents though,tough brothers and resources,maybe Maria had no one to help her.So I sympathize.Nontheless it was an awful situation.I wonder if they ever found peace in thier lives? Hopefully they did.

  13. Ok I feel some of what I put there is a bit harsh..yikes. I should not have been so blunt,let me clarify however my mom felt that way about the mother not me. I am sorry if I offended anyone.It was almost thirty years ago,I can not beleive it is thought about,it struck a chord.I truly wish all the people involved peace.

  14. I was in Worland with Richard. I was his cell mate… I would love to know what ever happened to him…


    • What was he like? I hope he did not suffer any further abuse in prison. This story always stuck with me as my father was similarly abusive, and Richard was my hero, secretly.

  15. I lived directly across the street from the Jahnke’s on Cowpoke Rd. in Cheyenne, Wy. On the night of the murder, we heard the shots and were witness to the death of the father. We took the mother, Maria, into our home that night, knowing the police suspected both Richard and Deborah of shooting their father. In the early morning hours, they were both arrested and placed in jail. From that day on, our lives changed as well. We found that living across a dirt road from a family that experienced abuse daily and not knowing a thing about it, is absurd but true. We welcomed this family when they moved into their new home, but they shunned us. Now, it makes sense. The kids rode the same bus as my sister and I, but kept to themselves. Richard was in the JROTC at my high school and Deborah was almost “goth-like” by wearing black and being shy. Who could blame them? They were being physically and sexually abused by their father. Their mother is not to blame, as she was a poor Puerto Rican that Richard Sr. met while stationed in Puerto Rico. She was shy and not very educated. They married. He started abusing her immediatley. By the time they had two children the abuse was both emotional and physical and there was no return as far as Maria felt. Richard Sr. was an abusive, manipulative bully. Richard Jr. tried unsuccessfully to get help from the principal of the high school to the Sherriff at the sherrifs department. Richard Sr. was an IRS agent and coincidentally was actually looking into some sort of tax evasion from the Laramie County Sherriff at the time that Richard Jr. decided to go to the Sherriff’s dept. and report the abuse. The sherriff went to the home and interviewed the whole family together while the dad’s eyes remained on Richard Jr. Thus, nothing came of it.
    So many atrocities were made on behalf of the people that Richard Jr. and Deborah turned to for help. They, then, decided to take matters into their own hands. It was wrong, but they felt they had no choice. I sat through every day of that trial and hated Richard Sr. even more. Both kids were convicted but their sentences were commuted by Gov. Ed. Hershchler. My parents began a campaign to help the victims of child abuse in Laramie County during and after the trial based on all the wrong that had been done to these victims. My dad went on “Good Morning America” and “60 Minutes” to help thier plight in getting the word out that murder was not the only choice. There is not a day that goe by that I don’t think about how Richard and Deborah are doing. I know they both married and changed their names. And, I know I can find them if I need to, which I should. I know their’s was a landmark case in the effects of child abuse and the lack of support from the officials dedicated to help them. I have never in one moment felt sorry for Richard Sr. He was horrific! God Bless Richard Jr., Deborah and Maria and may they be living wonderful, happy lives….

  16. I grew up in the same neighborhood, and was 14 at the time of the shooting. I remember Richard being a loner and very quiet and shy- somewhat of an outcast amongst all the kids who rode the bus together in that rural neighborhood named “Cowboy Country”. The night of the murder my friend M. Olafson heard the shots as he was outside putting his dog Hercules up for the night in his pen.

  17. I enrolled in Central High in January ’83 immediately after this happened. I was living on the military base since October ’82 so I was fully aware of what was happening with the trial and media. I remember so well the comments about both Richard and Deborah (she would have been in my classes if this did’nt happen) and really remember the loss that the whole student body felt. As someone that never met them nor had a history in the school, it seemed they were quite but well liked. I can’t imagine their lives being anything close to normal after this. Hope they are both doing well as survivors.

  18. Most people may not even be aware of the fact that prior to the Jahnke families’ move to Wyoming they lived in Arizona. (I was only in the 7th or 8th grade at the time of the murder) I have vivid memories of the odd ‘kid’ that was picked up by my school bus everyday.

    I lived 2 streets north of them in a neighborhood that is just outside the Scottsdale town limits. They lived next door to the Carrols whose youngest son was my best friend.

    Each morning the bus picked me up as it followed its route up and down our streets oddly stopping exactly at the lot line between the Carrol & Jahnke property. I remember Mike telling me that they never got along too well with them. His older brother Steve was a miscreant that started trouble with anything on 2 feet so it came as no surprise.

    It always seemed odd to me that Richard would be standing at the bus stop well dressed and sporting a briefcase. Rumor had it that his father forced him to carry it. Everyone else either had a backpack or just carried their books under an arm. It was like painting a bullseye on him.

    I remember that his head would often times be tilted towards the ground as though he’d found something incredibly interesting on his shoes. I remember seeing his mother in, what I believe was, a bathrobe (with her hair up in curlers). Richard would find a place on the bus near a window (likely in a ‘less popular seat’) from which he would wave to his mother as we pulled away.

    Less memorable to me was his sister Deborah. My sister would later tell me that she ‘knew’ Deborah somewhat and that they talked from time to time but that she was ‘distant’ and ‘weird’. I didn’t know her although if I saw Richard on the bus I rode it is likely that I would have seen Deborah as well.

    It was easy to see that their home life was stressful. Back in those days I was dealing with my own father & mother issues (although nothing that would compare at all) so I could sense that Richard was unhappy. Also because it was a no brainer that if the kid got on the bus depressed and sullen it likely came with him from before the bus stop.

    I saw the movie and I read the book. I cannot begin to pass judgment because I do not know all the facts in their case. It’s nice, however, to think that Richard was happier in Wyoming (at school) than he was at Cocopah Elem. or Chaparral High. I saw him harrassed on the school bus by the same people who gave me a hard time and I heard the stories from the ‘rumor mill’ that much of the same went on in school as well. A mind can only take just so much duress before lashing out.

    I have thought about Richard & Deborah ever since they moved away to the place that would bring them notoriety. I had hoped one day to speak with them and ask them about the things that I remember from childhood. Not from some twisted ‘need-to-know’ place but from the place of a friend maybe they didn’t even know they had back then. Probably won’t ever happen, in any case I wish them both a lot of luck and hope that their lives have come to a better place.

  19. I went to school with Richard in Arizona. I have prayed that he knows God loves him and Deborah and their mother and knows the truth of everything that happened. Self defense and defending people from rape is allowable by God’s Word. I pray that he and Deborah have found peace. In my Book, it takes a hero for a child to break a cycle with a giant like that, which probably started long before Richard was even born. I don’t know what all happened, but it sounds like many other options were tried and other people wouldn’t or couldn’t help. I’m sorry for all the pain. I wish I knew and could’ve helped out somehow.
    I pray for peace for them. Although, I’m sad this ever happened in the first place, I’m grateful that the truth has brought awareness to this issue and has probably helped many more children in abusive situations. I long for God’s Promised Day where He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

  20. I live in England and first watched the TV movie some twenty years ago and it has stayed with me all this time, until i was able to but a copy recently and it was just as brutal and disturbing for me to watch as it was all those years ago. How could any father commit such heinous crimes against his own children? Was the son’s crime (and it was a crime) an even worse act? I put myself not in the young boy’s place but in the shoes of those that judged him. After much thought i concluded that he was guilty, but mitigating circumstances demand mercy be shown. Those poor victims memories of those tragic times will stay with them for ever and that is punishment enough. As to the father? May God forgive him. I cannot.

  21. I had moved to Cheyenne the summer before this terrible event. I had deborah in a couple of my classes and was just getting to know her. She was very quite and I felt that she was very much like me. Especially because I was a new girl. Some of the other girls that I was getting to know would all go to the skating rink, and they invited me to go and I asked her to go also. I was told she wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. I had noticed that she did have bruises and one of the girls had told me that she knew that her father was abusive.
    I know that everyone felt that if any of us had just reached out to them, maybe we could have made a difference, but there was nothing anyone could do after. It was all very tragic.
    For anyone who passes judgement on the mother, walk a day in her shoes 1st. Men like him threaten to harm the children if you do anything. They tell you that you will never see them again. They threaten to burn the house down while you are sleeping…it goes on and on. I know because I did walk a day in her shoes. My story ended differently because I did have a great support system and had family and friends to turn to. My children and I survived our nightmare. I truly hope that they have learned to live their lives to the fullest and cherish every day that they have left.
    I had decided to do a search because I had recently read a different true story (Peter’s Lullaby)on abuse that happened years ago(50’s &60’s) in my hometown. This one is even worse, to know that this can go on, is heartbreaking. It brought back the memories that I had of my year in Cheyenne. And I was wondering about them.

  22. I went to school with them at Chaparral High. I didn’t know Richard, but was very close to Deborah. She and I maintained contact for a while, but that dropped for obvious reasons. I know she changed her name (to something more generic and pretty much unsearchable), and I hope she’s happy. I have thought about her often.

  23. I was a student at East High School in Cheyenne in 1982 i can relate to abuse. My heart goes out to Richard and Deborah

  24. I hope they find peace inside

  25. I remember both Richard and Deborah. Deborah and I were friends for a brief time. Richard was in all my classes in Jr. High in Arizona.
    I, as well, was a quiet, shy kid. For many reasons, some similar to theirs, others not.
    I remember actually feeling relieved by them. I went to their house with Deborah one time, and we had to go around back, to the back door, not the front door, her mother peeked out the door to speak with Deborah. No one was allowed inside! I actually felt a little less of a freak! You see, the same thing went on at our house. Dad let no one in, and the front door was not to be used.
    I will say, that during that encounterm Maria gave us both an apple, as we were hungry. Deborah didn’t understand why we couldn’t have MY mom hand us out an apple or something, if we were hungry? I like to imagine that that episode might have made HER feel less like a freak too.
    Sadly, it wasn’t enough friendship, or shared time and secrets. I’ve read the book, seen the movie, seen the Donahue show, seen the 60 minutes, and have been touched by it. I really feel for them, I often felt close to no choice when I was younger too. I just chose a different path to get away from it.
    We all have our breaking points, some of us are stronger than others. Some can make a stand, and some can’t. I can also feel for Maria……….like I said, some of us just can’t stand up to our offenders. It’s hard to understand that frame of mind, but it’s no less tragic either way.
    To Deborah and Richard: I feel for you both, have thought of you often over the years, and still have my 8th grade yearbook with Richie’s picture! I remember our 8th grade teacher lecturing us about how Richie was treated by classmates, and how she wanted it stopped! She was your advocate for sure! I remember the kid who got his jaw broken at Chaparral High defending you. He talked openly about it, and defied anyone to try it again in his presence. He swore up and down he’d do it all the same again, if the situation presented. Deborah: The girls were all jealous of you. Plain and simple. The only way they knew of to deal with it, was to taunt. I am sorry for that. You were a lovely young woman, and I am sure you both maintained your true selves through it all.
    I hope that Deborah and Richard (I do not know your new names) read these posts from time to time. We were the Pomaville kids, and just as outcast, so maybe you remember us? I hope fondly.
    Feel free to contact me, if you do read these. I would just like to say “HI”.

  26. I remember this case vividly, although I live all the way across the ocean in the Netherlands. I actually use this case in my lessons (I’m a high school teacher). Every year I let my classes replay the court case, although I use the Dutch judicial system rather than the American one. The point of these lessons is to teach my boys (I teach at a technical school, so only boys in my classes) that life isn’t black and white. They normally tend to say: If someone kills someone else he deserves a life sentence. I always tell them that you need to know why the killing happened. The Richard Jahnke case proves my point. Although the always want to sent him away for life, when a tell them we’re going to do an actual trial on a boy who shot his father, after they read the file and have seen the movie, their opinions change. Richard has hardly ever been put away for a long period of time by my classes. In the end they understand that life’s not black and white, put various shades of grey. They are always impressed by the case.

    There is a reason I use this case, obviously. It is that somehow more or less changed my life. I was only 12 when the shooting happened. I can remember there was an news item about it in the Netherlands, somewhere at the beginning of 1983. It stuck with me. Not because I was abused, I had very loving parents, but I was bullied at elementary school. Everyday I took a different way home to avoid my bullies. At home I just stayed in my room. I basically had no friends. The thought of killing some of my bullies, or even kill myself, entered my mind occasionally. But in august 1983 I had to go to high school. It would have been logical to have gone to the Catholic High School, since I was on the Catholic elementary school as well, but my parents new my bullies would also go there. They decided it was better for me to go to the public High School. I could make a fresh start. That’s what happened. I still didn’t make any friends (I didn’t know how to do that) but the other kids spoke to me and didn’t bully me. This was great.

    So how does Richard Jahnke fit into this. Well in my second year at the High School I noticed some 17 and 18 year old boys wearing buttons with “Free Richard Jahnke”. Although I had seen the news item, I had forgotten the name. I assumed that Richard Jahnke was an anti-apartheid figure, after all buttons with “Free Nelson Mandela” were common at our school. One day early in September 1984 one of the boys wearing the button came sit with me at the canteen, since he couldn’t sit anywhere else. I was 14 at the time he was 17 and that is a huge difference at that age. Anyway I asked him if Richard Jahnke was on Robben Island as well and he just burst into laughter. Hadn’t I heart of Richard Jahnke? No, obviously not. So he told me the story and them I remembered. He told me there was a campaign group at school trying to get Richard on probation. I thought it was great, a group that thought about social justice and not about themselves. So I asked if I could join. Ab (which was the boys name) just replied that I was just a kid. I hated that but I couldn’t get in, so it seemed.
    The next day classmates told me Ab was looking for me, so I made sure he could find me. Before I could say anything he just said: :”you’re in”. That felt so great. I was actually in group now! The group had discussed my wish to join and decided that it would be bad to have a younger guy in it. I could campaign amongst the younger pupils. And so I did. More younger pupils joined the group after that. But I was now befriended with Ab and his group. For the first time in my life I had actually made friends. It felt great.

    At school we were campaigning, holding meeting, discussing the case during social studies. Later on we showed the movie. It only occurred to me much later that this was a very odd campaign. Nobody actually knew Richard Jahnke, noboday had any idea about campaigns in the USA, or even contact with the USA. So in the end our campaign was more about child abuse than anything else. I suppose in the end it was selfish. It made us feel good, but it didn’t help Richard Jahnke one bit!

    I was 14 though and felt I was campaigning for Richard and I considered him to be my friend. Now I realise how stupid that idea was, but then it seemed genuine. I even wrote Richard a letter at the end of September 1985. Fortunately I never sent it. I had noticed that I was starting to get al these strange feelings for ohter boys and was really disturbed. I told Ab but he just said: “Being gay is no big deal.” That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to talk to Ab about my feelings. Could they pass? So I decided to write Richard, after all he was a Catholic boy as well. When I finished and wanted to post it, I just panicked. I suddenly realised I didn’t know Richard Jahnke. He might not like to write about this at all. So I didn’t sent the letter. Instead I gave it to Ab, who read it. We than had a long discussion and he really listened. He really couldn’t answer any of my questions since he was straight, but he tried. He was a real friend. In the end he told me that it sure sounded like I was gay, and so it turned out to be. I lost my faith back then, and am now an atheist.

    Anyway it was trough the Richard Jahnke campaign that I got friends at last. Friends that were older, but who took me seriously and helped me. In the end none of them cared that I was gay, I was still their friend. So in an odd way, Richard Jahnke changed my life, even though he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him.

    I hope he’s doing all right now, wherever he may be. My life turned out great. I just hope Richard isn’t to mad about me replaying his court case year after year. But is real educational. A group of 16 year olds on the other side of the world learns about the judicial system, ethics, child abuse and the fact that life’s various shades of grey, thanks to this case. So it is still relevant today.

    • In reply to Ron V .

      It is that ambivalent thinking/relativist thinking, which claims there are so-callled shades of grey, that is much of what is wrong with the world.

      The attitude apparently displayed by that disgusting, child molestor Richard Chester Jankhe in abuse towards his son and daughter was totally wrong/ totally evil. The decision of Richard Jankhe Junior to defend his sister and himself from such abuse was totally right / totally defensible.. The true/ the good is NOT “somewhere in the middle” , nor are there any “shades of gray” .

      • I wish it were that simple. Personally I disagree completely with the black and white approach. If the whole world would see things in either good or evil and not in a more nuanced way it would be war all of the time. Murder is wrong even though you can understand (or even agree with) why somebody did it.

        I do belief Richard Jr. didn’t deserve a prison sentence but I do not belief he had the right to kill.

        To demonstrate that the world is not black and white: My students all get the same story, the same film and the same time to discuss the case in a sort of jury. Yet they never agree. The hardest punishment a student ever gave him was life in prison. The lowest so far was 1 year. None of my students ever voted for no punishment at all. This goes to show there is no black and white, if it were so the students should eventually agree on a punishment and so far they never did. So there are lots of shades of grey.

        I hope students will learn that there are lots of shades of grey and that understanding them is the first stage to respecting each other. I consider not believing in shades of grey is what’s wrong with the world, because black and white leads to disrespecting people with disagree with.

  27. I have lived in Cheyenne all my life it is a military town I too suffered an abusive childhood nothing like these poor people. The police then and now tend not to investigate child abuse if it happens in a “Good family” With “Good parents” The military family’s are as should be respected however it should not be at the expense of their kids. I was only eight when this happened and I remember my mom saying the kids were liars and should get life! I am now a mother myself and ha e often thought of these poor kids they are part of the reason I left my first marriage because of abuse. I pray that there experience like mine made them go on to become amassing loving understanding parents after all the best feeling in the world is knowing your children are far better off then you ever were because of what you suffered. Cheyenne Wyoming was back then and remains very corrupt when it comes to police officials and judges. Children are still sacrificed.

  28. I am thirteen, most of you would start thinking im to you to know of this trial. My eighth grade teacher was at a house party at judge.Brown’s house after the Jahke trial and she politly asked him the reason for sendind them to prison, he had two simple answers one if he would have put them on probation their mother most likely would have taken them back to her home country and nothing would have ever been settled. He put them in prison so they could have counciling to help them get through it , that was the only way that he new that he could get them that long term help. So no the judge was not a cold hard ruthless person, he did it for the rectutude of the children.

  29. I too saw this movie when it aired on TV many years ago and have never forgotten these kids,,,my heart went out to them and still does,,,I pray that they are able to have some peace and happiness in their lives.

  30. I was in the Air Force at FE Warren AFB in Cheyenne at that time. My wife worked in the Corporations department of the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office. She said that Richard senior would often come in to get information on companies he was investigating for the IRS. She said he was very arrogant and always in a bad mood. I remember the shock that pervaded the city when we found out what had happened. Later, I met Rich when someone invited him to the church that we attended. I remember shaking his hand, and it was so soft. I was thinking, “This doesn’t feel like the hand of a killer.” I always felt so sorry for that family; they never had a normal life. one of the scenes of the movie stands out to me. Rich is spending the night at the house of a friend, and he just sits there in awe as he sees that they are all getting along, and there is no tension or fear among them. How sad. I hope that they have been able to find the happiness in their lives that they deserve.

    • I went the Grace Nazarene church…he came with us as well..was this the church you went to? In HS he went to East High/CBOE with Iretha Bliss. She was the youth pastor at the church we attended and invited him to come…he went for awhile…he was living with a guy named Dan something…over near Cole Shopping Center.

  31. I went to school with them and I rode the bus #32 with them every day.. Deborah was a good friend. I really wish i knew how to get ahold of them both. I just Hope that someday if Deborah reads this that she will know that people do still care about her and miss her. Richard too.. I remember several times we talked on the bus.. I remember Deborah threatening girls that were causing problems with Richard.. she wasnt as shy and quiet as people made out. lol

  32. After the shooting Richard had to go to East High School. We were all very sensitive to what had happened and I think for the most part he was given a lot of respect. I loved seeing him come out of his shell. At East High he was very popular, took school photos and all of this seemed to help Richard move forward. I can’t imagine what he and Deborah must have gone through but I hope that they both know how much they have done to pave the road for others who have faced and will face abuse. Thank you

  33. Maria, Richard & Debbie….in LOVE & LIFE forever….I LOVE you BOTH ALWAYS….love Brenda C

  34. I saw the movie “Right to Kill”? the night it first aired and then again on TV in about 1989; I so wish I could find a tape or dvd of it. So profoundly tragic, dark, sad and thought provoking! I hope that Maria’s, Richard’s, and Debbie’s wounds from this episode of their lives have healed fully, and that whatever scars have remained have not prevented them from living happy, fulfilling lives!!! God Bless them!

  35. I never forgot the story of Richie & Deborah Jahnke, and was so glad when their sentences were commuted. I thought it was a travesty that they were charged at all — it was so obviously self-defense and so obvious that the “father” was a monster. The saddest part is that nobody stepped up to protect them, including their mother. I hope both have gotten help over the years (though nothing can really erase the damage, pain & sadness) and that they have found happiness. They so deserve it …

  36. To Valerie Hain Burmester, I realize its been awhile since your post, you may not see this but if you do, we would love for you to see if you could find Deborah & Richard. Just to tell all those who wonder about them, like myself, how they have been in their life, how they are doing. Nothing else.
    I moved to Cheyenne about a month after the shooting. I am Deborah’s age. I remember the trial…so sad, broke my heart. I too, have never forgotten them and still wonder how they are.

  37. I just read The Poison Tree, and I was amazed at Maria Jahnke’s attitude when it came to protecting her children. Even after the death of her husband, she was still afraid to tell the truth. Those children went through hell from early stages of childhood. I understand about being afraid of change, but Richard Chester Jahnke was dead. Why didn’t Maria Jahnke expose her abusive husband?

    • I hope you understand Janie L. that Maria Jahnke was also a victim.the mind set of victim of abuse can not be switched on and off like a light switch. It takes time for people to heal,have some compassion an understanding. I was a child of abuse.

  38. […] three months ago, I saw this comment reflecting the movie in my Facebook feed, “…I hope he didn’t suffer any further abuse in prison. This story always struck me as my […]

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