Man guilty in claw-hammer beating death

A jury tonight found a California man guilty of murder for beating to death a 91-year-old cancer survivor and her grandson with a claw hammer.

Authorities said Thomas Richardson came to Las Vegas over the 2005 Labor Day weekend with his girlfriend’s teenage son, Robert Denhart, with a plan to rob and kill Steven Folker, who was staying with his grandmother, Estelle Feldman.

Richardson was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon with one of the victims being 60-years or older and one count each of robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary with use of a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit robbery.

The jury deliberated for about four hours before returning the guilty verdict about 10 p.m.

Richardson, 42, could receive the death penalty for his crimes. Life in prison is another option for jurors can consider when they begin hearing the penalty phase of the trial Monday.

Denhart in July pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and robbery with use of a deadly weapon and testified against Richardson during the trial.

In exchange, prosecutors will recommend Denhart receive a sentence of 24 to 80 years in prison. In 2005, police were able to track down Denhart in Riverside, Calif., after discovering his fingerprint at the crime scene.

During his testimony, Denhart said he had gone with Richardson to rob Folker. Denhart testified that when they decided to kill Feldman, Richardson told him, “She’s lived long enough.”

Richardson’s attorney David Schieck argued there was no physical evidence in Feldman’s home that could link him to the crime.

The only thing implicating Richardson was Denhart “who sold this story to the state for a deal,” Schieck said.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at or 702-380-1039.