KENT, Ohio — A month after receiving a 15-pound box of documents related to her son’s death while in Air Force Basic Military Training, Mary Richards now believes his death was thoroughly investigated.
Richards, 54, said she now accepts that it is possible that her son, Kenneth Liam Richards, may have taken his own life.
She had to wait two years for a Freedom of Information Act request to be honored for all documents related to the death of her 26-year-old son, who was just one week short of completing Basic Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.
A death certificate the family received indicated that the 2003 Kent Roosevelt High School and Allegheny College graduate hanged himself on Dec. 30, 2010.
She had believed before reading the one-inch thick summary report by the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations that her son was upset that he might not graduate from the 8½-week Basic Training class and would have to retake the training.
She said within the report a training official indicated that her son was going to graduate with his class.
The family was scheduled to travel to Texas the first week of January in 2011 to attend his graduation.
“I am content they did a good investigation,” said Williams, who has custody of a 5-year-old grandson and helps care for two other grandchildren.
She said she feels that her son’s suicide was precipitated by something that happened in Basic Training but was not due to the fact that he was gay.
Her son told her there were some issues with peers in the dormitory, and there had been a few shoving incidents.
While “the incident will never really be gone from my life,” she said, she now believes “there is no more action I need to take, which is a relief.”
She had considered hiring a private investigator to find out what happened to her son, but now she feels no need to do that.
Along with the envelopes of photos, there is also an envelope, still unopened, of a disc or DVD which could include video footage from security cameras at the Air Force base.
Williams said she does not plan to view any of the photos or the video.
“I’m not sure why I would want to have pictures in my head that I don’t need to have,” she said. “My son in his coffin is enough.”