Liberia: Attempted Murder Victim Decries Deception, Threats, Bribery

Jessica Lloyd agreed to marry Lucas Richards with the sole desire of fulfilling his wish to become a biological father.

Richards, an American Missionary with the Creekside Church, met Jessica at the Disciples Training Bible College in Marshall and asked her to be his second wife.

They had a traditional wedding months later when Jessica was pregnant Richards aborted the pregnancy and tried to kill her at a Waterside in Dixville. She was rescued by a community dweller.

"I trusted him," she says.

Before the alleged attempt by Richards to take Jessica's life, she says he was so affectionate and supported her. "He bought me flowers from Gift Liberia and sent them to me on the mission. That was my first time receiving flowers," says Jessica.

Where, and How it all began

While awaiting the University of Liberia entrance results, Jessica's uncle recommended to her mom that Jessica and her twin brother, who was about to finish high school, enroll at the Disciple Training Bible College in Marshall. It was there she met Richards, a Missionary who had come there as a visiting instructor for a week. At the college, classes run for three months, followed by another three months of field training -- going out to evangelize to people, spreading the message of Jesus Christ.

"Lucas was one of the teachers for that month because every week we have a specific teacher who teaches a specific topic. Lucas happened to be one of the teachers. After he got through teaching us for one week, the last day was Friday. That was when he placed his contact on the blackboard. The class took group pictures using my phone so I had to send the pictures to everyone in the group chat," says Jessica.

"So I sent the picture and that's how he got my phone number and we started communicating. When I sent the picture, he sent a message praising me."

Their Marriage

Richards had told the entire class that he was married, but he and his wife had trouble having children. According to Jessica, the class got together during the week he was there and prayed with him for him and his wife to conceive.

Even though Jessica knew Richards was married, she said she agreed to become his second wife because she felt sorry for him since he and his wife could not have children. "He said she (his American wife) did not have a problem with us getting married," Jessica said, though also she said Lucas never introduced her to Mrs. Richards as an incoming second wife, only as one of his students from the Bible College.

"I felt good because he was good to me. I was happy about it and I felt sorry for him and wanted to give him a child. But he told me he did not want us to have a child out of wedlock."

Jessica said she knew that it was against Christian beliefs for one man to be married to more than one woman. However, she said Richards convinced her that some people in the Bible, such as Jacob, married more than one woman to resolve the issue of barrenness. "He used to call me Rachel," she said. Rachel in the Bible was Jacob's second wife, whom he loved, but was initially barren for some time before she finally conceived and bore two sons.

"So we decided to get married," Jessica said. Her mom, Cynthia, consented to their marriage and, in May 2023, they had a traditional wedding.

Traditional weddings in Liberia are different from Christian weddings in that, while both are legal, the former allows the man to marry more than one wife. Jessica says Richards knew that, by Liberian law, he could not marry another woman in a church, which is why he decided on a traditional wedding.

The Pregnancy

When Jessica found out that he was pregnant, she was excited knowing that she would be finally able to fulfill Richards' dream of becoming a father. By this time they had gotten married, though she still lived with her mother in Caldwell. One day he came there to visit Jessica. Jessica had told him at the time that she was not feeling well, and Richards decided to give her an injection, which she claimed led to the termination of the pregnancy.

"I felt bad when the pregnancy moved," she said. "But he encouraged me and he was there for me." According to her, she did not think much of it because, even if the termination of the pregnancy was his fault, she counted it an honest mistake. "I felt bad about losing the pregnancy, but he wanted the child. I trusted him and did not think he would intentionally do anything to hurt his own child."

So, to help Jessica overcome her pain of losing the pregnancy, Richards decided to take her out. According to her on September 14, 2023, they drove around in his car for a while, looking for a place to sit. "But firstly, before we could get out of the car, he took a big knife, saying that he was afraid of snakes and that, in case he saw one, we would kill it. So we got out of the car. He put the knife in his pocket after we got to the riverside." She said there were people nearby.

"Later on, we went to some kind of bush area. He said he wanted to urinate. After urinating, he said he saw some kind of animal in the bush, but the knife was in his pocket. So he called me to come see. But I told him that I was scared. So I just stood behind him.

"We drove some more, and he saw a graveyard and wanted us to stop there to look at the graves. But I told him no," she explained. "That was how we got to the Palm Farm area and he stopped the car and said he heard a sound underneath the car. He asked me to get down and help him with the tire."

Jessica narrates that she did not notice anything particularly wrong with the car tire, but Richards knew his car, so she obliged. While she was working on the tire, she said he pulled back a portion of her hair, claiming that he saw something in her hair.

Suddenly she heard a loud sound and found herself on the ground. In a discombobulated state, she tried to get up but, as she recalls, she felt Lucas' weight on her. She tried to tell him that she could get up by herself, but he held her down, she said.

Even at this point, she said she trusted him and did not think he had it in him to harm her.

PHOTO: Jessica Lloyd's first responders, Enerst Philip and John S. Nyumah, who rescued her from death and helped her to safety. (Credit: Carielle Doe)

Fear of death threats

Enerst Philip happened to be nearby at a tailor shop running an errand for his mother, when he discovered Jessica lying on the ground and Richards allegedly in the act, trying to slit Jessica's throat. He pushed Richards, who then tried to stab him with the knife. But Philip said he dodged it. As a crowd gathered at the scene, Richards got back into his car and sped off, leaving Jessica bleeding profusely from her throat.

With the help of John Nyumah, a keh-keh driver, Jessica was taken home to her mom.

The first stop was at the THT hospital in Barnesville, where doctors advised Jessica to be taken to JFK.

Philip says he's now receiving threats from people in Liberia and the United States. He claimed that some had offered him money not to testify in court, while others sent him text messages and phone calls threatening to "get" him for turning Richards over to the police.

"I had to move from where I was living because it got to a point where people almost broke down the door to our house. So I had to stop going to school and the job I was doing to earn a little money for myself, I had to stop. Even where I live now, it's hard for me to come outside because I have been warned by people close to me that my life is at stake. It can embarrass me. I don't go around friends anymore because I feel that [those threatening me] can use those same friends to harm me," he said.

Philip claimed that someone had called on WhatsApp from the United States to offer him money. "I rejected that money because of my country. I look at the future of the girl, and I look at my country. I myself have a sister and every time I think about Jessica, I think it could have been my own sister," he said.

Alleged Bribe from Richards' Lawyers

In a recent meeting at the Temple of Justice, Lucas Richards' lawyers, including Eric Marlue, Joseph B Debbley, and Jimmy Bombo, allegedly attempted to persuade Jessica Lloyd and her parents to drop charges against Lucas in exchange for a bribe.

In an audio recording of a meeting between the legal representatives of the Lloyd family and Richards' lawyers, copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, an "initial offer" of US$10,000 was made to the Lloyd family, which was rejected. During the same meeting, the alleged offer was increased to US$20,000, which was again declined.

According to Richards' lawyers, "the law says death resulting from accident, the maximum is US$10,000. Even though her case was not an accident, but an attempt to commit murder, which is a criminal offense, what we could do, the same maximum amount is given in this vein, say about US$10,000 to give to the family to see how they can take care of their daughter... To find a way to resolve it because, even if you go to court, he may go to jail. But there is no compensatory damage if the man goes to jail. What will be her benefit? So we are just concerned about that. We don't support him doing what he did. Ten thousand... Not Liberian dollars.

Responding, the legal counsel for the family said: "We can't talk outside of the law. What I would want to talk on their own behalf before they can even go and talk about it as a family, is that, I agree when he goes to jail, maybe for a certain length of time - whatever sentence that the judge decides, they will not get anything in return. But you and I also know that if the family decides to go for the damages that he has caused the entire family and even her ... if you really want to repair, we are talking about changing the environment, if we were to file for damages. It may not be now. You are talking about [death benefits]. If we go criminal, we will not call it 'benefit', per se... but if that same family decided to [file a] civil [lawsuit], the damages will go more than what is being offered here."

The conversation between the two sides then trails off into a debate over the technicalities of pursuing a criminal or civil case.

"What we make of this wrongful act is what is important," Richards' lawyers argued. "What we are making is an initial offer."

Despite these attempts, the family has remained resolute in their faith and trust in God to deliver justice. They have refused all offers of bribery and continue to seek truth and accountability.

The family's legal representative, Prosecutor Naomi Ford Wilson from the Ministry of Justice, was also present during the meeting. As they await the judge's verdict, the family remains steadfast in their faith, trusting that "justice will prevail in the name of Jesus".

During a phone call with the Daily Observer, Cllr. Eric Marlue declined to speak on any matter related to the murder allegations against Richards - including the alleged bribe by him and his colleagues - because the case is still in court.

All eyes and ears are now on the court, which is expected to deliver the verdict on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

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