He was accused of molesting a child. Then, he looked for revenge, cops say

Richard Palmer
Richard Palmer

A Florida man accused of fondling a child figured he had found a way out of his legal situation, cops say — hiring someone to kill the child and two adults, and burn down the house in which all three live.

What Polk County Jail resident Richard Palmer was willing to pay for triple murder with a side order of arson, according to his arrest report: $15,000 and a car. Palmer agreed to a good faith deposit of $100.

The arrest report says that when Palmer, 26, made his agreement, he did so with a Polk sheriff’s undercover detective. That’s why, as of Tuesday, Palmer is facing two counts of solicitation of first-degree murder and one count of arson in addition to two counts of adult molestation of a child under 12. The Winter Haven man pleaded not guilty to the molestation charges.

In February 2013, a girl told the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that she had woken up to find Palmer’s hand inside her panties fondling her. When her cousin, sleeping in the same bed, woke up and asked Palmer what he was doing, he removed his hand and left. The cousin seconded the girl’s account and said that Palmer had kept trying to grab the little girl’s butt throughout a cookout the next day.

Just back off cause you stuck your hand in my pants and when I woke my cousin (name) up, you took it out

Facebook message to Richard Palmer from his alleged child molestation victim, according to Palmer’s arrest report

Later that month, according to Palmer’s arrest report, he messaged the girl on Facebook. She called him a “pervert” in her reply.

Palmer: “lol hahahaha.”

Girl: “Just back off cause you stuck your hand in my pants and when I woke my cousin (name) up, you took it out.”

After his arrest in 2015, Palmer posted $25,000 bond. In an incident last September, deputies said that several witnesses saw Palmer sucker punch Christopher Harrell in the back of the head with two closed fists after Harrell told Palmer to get out of his yard. Arresting deputies then said Palmer tried to kick, bite and spit blood at them.

This earned Palmer a return to the county jail on two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of resisting arrest with violence and felony battery charges. That’s where he, allegedly, started talking to a cellmate about the need to “X out” the girl and the two adult witnesses so he wouldn’t “spend the rest of his life in prison.”

“The witness said the defendant also wanted him to burn the residence the intended victims live in to destroy the evidence the defendant believes he left within,” according to the arrest report.

The cellmate gave sheriff’s detectives a Palmer-drawn map of the house, the yard and a diagram of the house’s inside. Then, he introduced Palmer to someone he said would assist him in the murder and burning tasks — the undercover detective.

After the deposit was agreed on, detectives listened in on a jailhouse call Palmer made to a family member from another inmate’s account. They claim Palmer told the family member to wire the $100 with “What’s your brother’s name?” as the security question and “Bob” as the answer.

During a recorded conversation, the arrest report says, detectives heard Palmer tell the cellmate a code meant ‘exterminate all Jews,’ the ‘Jews’ being the people in the neighborhood where the three targets live.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal