Living with daughter’s killer as they searched
They moved into their missing daughter’s house to look after their grandchildren as the town searched for her. Little did they know, they were living with her killer.
On Friday Cory Jefferies was sentenced to at least 11 years in jail in the Hamilton High Court for the murder of the 42-year-old mother of his three children, Kim Richmond.
He admitted at trial in July to killing her, but denied murder.
Richmond disappeared on July 31, 2016 after the couple drove home from a function in Arohena.
Her body was found by police in her ute in nearby Lake Arapuni 11 months later.
Speaking exclusively to NZME, mother Raywynne Richmond said she and husband Matt Richmond, Kim’s father, moved in with Jefferies to look after their grandchildren, staying for four months.
“We had a map of the wider area which we looked at every morning to see where we were going to search next.
“And he stood there and he looked at that map every morning, but never came on the search.
“It was really strange that he had never gone on a search, at all.”
The Richmonds searched the area for eight months.
“I knew after a week we weren’t going to find her alive,” Matt said.
“But we just carried on to find her.”
The couple had comforted Jefferies while their daughter was missing.
“He came back from being interviewed by the police one day and he walked in the door, a tear came out of his eye and he said ‘I think they think I did it’,” Raywynne said.
“I put my hands on his shoulders and said ‘Well did you?’, and he said ‘No’.
“So I gave him a cuddle and a kiss and said ‘Well we believe you then’, and the tears stopped like that.
“He thought he had got away with it because they’d searched the lake by then and found nothing.”
And when Kim’s farm cards were found on the roadside near Rangipo¯, Jefferies told Raywynne: “Oh that takes the heat off me”.
“While they were searching for their daughter, Jefferies started a new relationship,” Raywynne said.
“Here we were, still searching for her and he had started a new relationship. We were horrified at that.”
The woman was not the same one Jefferies admitted to police he kissed in the months leading up to Kim’s death.
“We felt uncomfortable being there and I just said to Matt, ‘I think it’s time we went home’.
She said she first suspected Jefferies about seven months after her daughter disappeared.
“I had suspected he was the guilty party but never said it. I thought it was strange that nothing had been found, that’s why.” But her husband wasn’t convinced.
“Matt . . . nearly hit one of the detectives,” Raywynne said.
“Matt was adamant he didn’t do it. Even when they arrested him.”
The 75-year-old former logging truck driver and musician went from shocked to angry.
While on remand he accused Raywynne and Matt of stealing “matrimonial property” when they were forced to pack up the farmhouse Jefferies and Kim rented together.
But despite their own feelings for Jefferies, the couple told the children their father was “innocent until proven guilty”.
“When he admitted to the manslaughter we sat them all down and said Dad had admitted to killing mum.
“When I sat them down and said ‘Well he’s been convicted of murder which means he’ll get a longer term in prison’, they just said ‘Oh’.
“At the end of the day he’s still their father regardless of what he’s done.” Unforgivable
“Jefferies’ selfish actions have stolen both parents from the children,” Raywynne said.
“That’s the really, really sad part is he didn’t think of those children in doing what he did, did he? Or was he so cocky that he thought he would never get caught?
“By the time he gets out of prison they’re all going to be adults.” Raywynne said the family can “never, ever forgive” Jefferies for Kim’s murder.
Speaking at Jefferies’ sentencing, she told him: “I hope you rot in prison the same as you left our Kim to rot in the lake, and we never got to say goodbye.”
“We’ll never ever forget what’s happened, how it’s happened,” she told the NZME.
“I just say to myself ‘Why, why, would you take the children’s mother away from them, just because you were unhappy?’.
“And that’s what it amounts to, because he was unhappy, ‘well I’ll just take you away, get rid of you’ and that’s really quite sad.”
Knowing the truth now — that Jefferies murdered Kim and lied about it for almost a year — infuriates Raywynne.
“I’m absolutely disgusted for the way he treated the children. To think he had the cheek to tell the children their mother had driven off and left them.
“How he got his young daughter to ring her mother’s phone and say ‘Mummy when are you coming home? I need you’.”
The couple have custody of the children for now.
“It’ll be up to the children if they want to see him.”
They believe the right verdict was delivered when Jefferies was convicted in the High Court at Hamilton of murdering his partner of 26 years.
Jefferies said it was manslaughter, at the last minute claiming he killed Kim with a closed-fist back hand blow to her head in the ute, but Raywynne doesn’t accept that and an autopsy was inconclusive.
After Kim’s body was found police warned the family Jefferies would be arrested.
But they were caught offguard on the day before Kim’s funeral when police swooped on Jefferies as the family walked into a Te Awamutu funeral home.
Jefferies was nonchalant as he was arrested.
“He handed the [car] key to Matt and said ‘Here, take that. They’re arresting me’.”
While Jefferies was in Springhill on remand and awaiting trial, Raywynne asked him to “do right by the children” and admit to causing Kim’s death.
“And his cocky little answer was ‘Oh I will, I’ll get out of here and prove I didn’t do it’.
“How could he hold that in for two years? I find that very hard to believe that somewhere along the line he hasn’t wanted to say or let it slip.”
Because of Jefferies’ deceit, Kim’s body was so badly decomposed from being under water for so long that the family were not allowed to see her.
“So we never got to say goodbye.”
Instead the children, Zinzan, then 13, Mitchell, 11 and Jasmine, 8, wrote “love and miss you mum” on Kim’s coffin.
“It was hard and then to have to tell them he wasn’t coming home.”
After the trial Matt lay awake at night thinking of his eldest daughter and her watery grave.
The graphic way in which Kim’s body was discovered, in the back seat, missing clothing from the top half of her body and with her rugby jersey tied across the back of her neck, was a shock and haunts her parents.
“After hearing all the stuff in the court about how Kim was found, about what he’d done to her, eh,” Raywynne said.
“That was the hurting part.”
A loving daughter, mum
Raywynne describes her daughter as placid, funloving, and a sports fanatic.
“Kim never had a bad word to say about anyone. She didn’t care what you looked like, she didn’t care how you dressed.”
“Her house was always open to people,” Matt said. “You couldn’t challenge her at a game of any kind of sport. Even if she’d never played it she’d learn and beat you.”
The former Bay of Plenty table tennis champion took her children up mountains, kayaking, swimming, played touch rugby with them and even jumped in the mud if they wanted her to.
The couple are trying hard to keep their grandchildren involved in sport the way their mother did but at 70 Raywynne says it’s not easy.
“I was looking forward to spending time with my grandkids in retirement, but not like this,” Matt said. Police work
The couple are grateful to police for their determination to find their daughter’s body.
“When they found Kim, I just had to go and shake their hand,” Matt said of the dozens of divers and police at the Arapuni boat ramp in June last year.
The police “hung in there to the bitter end,” Raywynne said.
Waikato Police Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Patterson said the investigation team could not discuss the inquiry including the technology that enabled police to track Jefferies cellphone GPS data to the lake, because it was still within the appeal period.
Up to 23 staff worked on the investigation which spanned two years, including the National Dive Squad, Land Search and Rescue, the Eagle helicopter and specialist search teams.
“The investigation team and police as a whole are satisfied that Mr Jefferies has been held to account for the death of Ms Richmond,” Patterson told NZME.
“However the return of Kim to her family — to provide some sense of closure and an understanding of how events unfolded — is the greatest satisfaction for the investigation team.”
Raywynne and Matt Richmond photographed at home in Te Puke with the portrait they keep of their murdered daughter Kim.
Red roses sit underneath a cross erected at the spot where Kim Richmond was found in Lake Arapuni.