Friends of Garrett Rich remember him as an outlaw biker who drank a bottle of vodka a day, snorted cocaine, often talked about suicide and had a great deal of influence over his 14-year-old daughter, Margaret.
They also said Margaret should not be in jail on suspicion of manslaughter. She was arrested March 13 after investigators say she shot her 56-year-old father. According to Boulder County Sheriff’s reports, she said she found him suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, held his hand for a bit, and then decided to shoot him again to end his misery.
“So far, of everything I’ve seen, they’re making (Margaret) out to be a bad girl,” said Skip Konst, a friend of Garrett Rich. “I don’t thing that’s true. ... I think she had to do what was expected of her.”
Konst worked with Garrett Rich and rode motorcycles with him.
Harry and Diane Heil met Garrett Rich when he moved to Colorado from Florida in 1978.
They were close with Rich and his family until his death March 13.
Diane Heil said Garrett Rich ruled the house like an emperor, and that his daughter and her older brother did what their father said.
She also compared Rich’s parenting style to an Amish family that disconnects itself from the outside world, except she said he was an alcoholic, often snorted cocaine and was verbally abusive.
Konst said Garrett Rich also carried a loaded .38-caliber pistol with him almost everywhere he went.
“He was very critical and very demanding,” Heil said. “Under the circumstances she lived under, I wouldn’t blame her. But I don’t think she did it intentionally.”
She said if Garrett Rich was suffering, Margaret would have shot him, especially if he asked her to.
“Margaret loved her daddy, and never wanted see him suffer or be alone,” she said.
But Garrett Rich also belittled Margaret and his former wife, Mary, Konst said.
But he added that Margaret knew no better about the abuse. She didn’t have many friends or outside influences.
Konst and the Heils agreed to talk about the Rich family after Mary Rich’s attorney, Steve Louth, contacted the Times-Call about sources connected to the case.
Louth said they wanted to get the word out about the kind of man Rich was, so he agreed to connect them with the media because he had the contacts.
Though a judge issued a gag order on the matter last week, Konst and the Heils have not been named as witnesses and therefore can share their stories, Louth said.
“We are just trying to see if we can help Margaret,” Harry Heil said.
Mary Rich can’t talk about the case because of the gag order, but Louth said she did share information about Margaret’s living conditions with authorities.
The girl is scheduled to appear in court again April 15, after an appearance originally set for Monday was changed.
Before the gag order was instituted, Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure had not publicly identified Garrett Rich as the man shot March 13. The coroner’s office still has not made that identification.
Margaret Rich called police to her home at 2008 N. 75th Street east of Boulder at 11:30 a.m. March 13, according to a sheriff’s office report. Authorities talked to the 14-year-old girl, then found her father dead in an upstairs bedroom.
Margaret Rich told investigators she found her father suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and then decided to shoot him again to end his misery, the sheriff’s report said.
Police then took her into custody on suspicion of manslaughter because of inconsistencies in her story, Lt. Phil West of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office told the Times-Call recently.
Konst said he had seen several guns around the Rich house and that he was sure Margaret knew how to shoot.
“He absolutely made sure that she knew how to handle a gun,” Konst said.
Garrett Rich could be a nice man one minute and mean the next, Konst added. He said Rich also was paranoid and believed that people were watching him or bugging his house.
The Heils and Konst both said Garrett Rich often talked about suicide. Rich’s marriage had failed, he had repeated run-ins with Boulder County police and he was having a hard time working his job as a computer repair specialist, they said.
Garrett Rich got along fine when he first came to Colorado and through the 1980s, Harry Heil said.
“He was very sharp and very good with electronics,” he said. “He did good up until the early ’90s.”
In 1991, Garrett Rich rolled his Jeep and suffered head injuries from which he never fully recovered, Harry Heil said.
“He was not as fast and his memory wasn’t as good as it used to be,” he said, adding that his once-routine repair jobs began taking more and more time.
He said Rich’s constant drinking and depression began after the accident and the decline of his work.
“I tried to talk to him about this stuff, about him getting out of control,” Heil said, but Rich wasn’t one to take advice.
Rich attempted to move his family to Florida twice in the past two years. He left for the second time nearly a year ago, after his wife left him.
His daughter, who fell in love with Florida on family vacations, was the only one who agreed to live with her father, Harry Heil said.
“I remember that he called me up and said he was going to Florida and that Margaret was the only one left that he could be with,” he said.
In January, Garrett Rich called Heil from Florida and told him he and Margaret were living in a moving van on the beach. The girl hadn’t attended school for more than a year and she wanted to come home to her mother, he recalled.
Garrett and Margaret moved back to their home east of Boulder earlier this month.
“A week later, he was dead,” Harry Heil said.
Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.