Those guns, and a .38-caliber pistol that he inherited after Jeff was shot, have all now figured in a death. In November, Baldwin, 51, testified that he kept the shotgun and rifle in his bedroom closet, the revolver in a drawer in his headboard and the ammunition in a bedside drawer along with a collection of Playboy magazines. Baldwin testified that he never saw his stepson handle the weapons and had no inkling that he was interested in the guns, which Baldwin meticulously examined and cleaned for possible rust every few weeks. He told the court that he had never used the guns, had only fired the pistol, without bullets, to ensure that it was working.
While they have not been charged in connection with Christian's death, Richard's mother and stepfather, in the minds of many, are effectively on trial, too. How could they have had no idea that Richard was interested in guns when his friends considered him a gun enthusiast? His fascination with the Army was no secret. His father designed military aircraft, his wrestling coach was a veteran, and his closest relatives--his stepfather, sister and brother-in-law--had been in the military. But even if Richard's parents knew nothing of their son's attraction to firearms, how, neighbors now ask, could they not keep guns locked up in their home when one of the weapons had already killed a child?
By the time Baldwin and his guns came into Richard's life, the child had already struggled with many demons. Diagnosed with dyslexia when he was in second grade, he was held back for a year. By the time he was 8, his mother told an Anaheim neighbor, Bobbye Nickell, he had already been counseled for disciplinary problems. And the 9-year-old boy was devastated when his father died of a heart attack at age 39. His father, Richard Sr., had been a designer on the Army's Apache attack helicopter, and a friend who has known Richard since second grade says the boy was proud of his father, showing off his helicopter drawings in class and talking about his work. Attorney Hall says the father and son had been devoted to each other. Richard was the youngest of four children and Richard and Nancy Marie Bourassa's only son.
Six months after her husband's death, Nancy Bourassa met Baldwin, a pilot who had once owned his own charter firm and occasionally worked as a flight instructor at Fullerton Municipal Airport. Baldwin was divorced, and his son and daughter lived with their mother and stepfather in Sunnyvale. Baldwin tried to see his children more often, but his ex-wife fought those efforts, and, at one point, two therapists recommended to the court against increased visitation rights. Baldwin's children, the therapists said, were so upset after visits with their father that they often returned to their mother's home early and ended up needing renewed therapy. The judge denied Baldwin's request.
In March, 1984, Baldwin, who now works as a courier for a small firm, married Nancy Bourassa, then a clerk at an Anaheim public library. Soon after, the family moved a few miles from the Bourassas' Anaheim home into a two-story house that was situated near the Riverside Freeway and landscaped with pine trees and junipers. The family settled into life in Anaheim Hills, an affluent and spacious community where tracts of middle-class tan-stucco homes like theirs are mixed among estate-like mansions.
Neighbors and the parents of Richard's friends know little about how the Baldwins and their son got along but said the boy was often alone. By the time he was a teen-ager, two of his sisters had already left home, and the third was about to move out. The youth continued to have difficulty in school, but aside from ordinary parent-teen-ager rows, friends and his attorney say, Richard and Baldwin had no significant troubles. Richard's friends say Tom Baldwin ruled the roost, and though he and his stepson weren't exactly chummy, they shared a love for music--both play the piano--and occasionally lifted weights together at a neighborhood gym. But during his police interrogations after Wiedepuhl's death, Richard said his stepdad "used to hit me. . . . If you got him mad, he used to throw me against the walls and push me around."
An adult neighbor, Jackie Morris, says she remembers no complaints from Richard, only that he seemed lonely. His parents both worked, so Richard was usually alone until nightfall.
"I'm sort of the Kool-Aid mom on the block, so the kids on the street are over here a lot," Morris says. Richard, she says, frequently lingered until the dinner hour. "We'd say, 'Richard, don't you think it's time you should be getting home? We're about to eat.' And he'd say, 'Can I come back tomorrow, please?' It was kind of sad."
"Nobody was home when (Richard) went home, so he was never in a hurry to leave here," recalls Dale Bush, father of Jeff Bush. "He was very polite, very cordial, very appreciative--almost nicer than normal."