Real Name: Richard Minns
Aliases: Richard O'Toole
Wanted For: Attempted Murder
Missing Since: 1982
Details: Back in the seventies, Richard Minns was a tycoon with a young girlfriend named Barbra Piotrowski. They were a glamorous presence on the Houston social scene. He was a charismatic, youthful-looking health club tycoon when they met on a ski slope in Aspen, Colorado. She was a bright and beautiful California pre-med student and part-time model twenty-four years his junior. Their relationship went well until his wife showed up one day looking for him. He explained to Barbra that they were separated, and she accepted his explanation. He later bought an expensive townhouse for her, but the relationship became strained after he learned that she was pregnant. He wanted her to get an abortion but she refused.
Eventually, Barbra ended the relationship, but Minns refused to accept that they were finished. She took several pieces of furniture and jewelry that he had given her. He tried to get her to meet with him to explain himself. She went to his hotel room and waited for him for several hours. When he returned, he was with another woman. She was furious and tried to leave. However, he convinced her to stay. A few minutes later, the police arrived and he had her arrested for stealing the items, even though she insisted that they were gifts. He was able to use his connections to get a warrant issued for her.
Four hours later, a detective visited Barbra in her jail cell. He had a document written by Minns that he wanted her to sign. If she would do so, she would be released. It stated that she had never met or dated Minns, and was not carrying his child. She refused to sign it. She was charged with felony grand theft and aggravated assault because she had slapped him with her purse. Thirty-six hours later, she miscarried. She was eventually released, but he continued to harass and stalk her.
On April 17, 1980, two detectives served Barbra with a search warrant. They searched her apartment and brought Minns in. He pointed out several pieces of furniture and other items that he claimed were his. They were put into storage. Again, he tried to have her sign papers that stated that she would not sue him. Again, she refused to sign.
On October 20, 1980, Barbra was shot four times in the back while parked in front of a Houston doughnut shop. The bullets collapsed her lungs and severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. Despite her injuries, she remained conscious and claimed that Minns was responsible.
Nathaniel Ivery and Patrick Steen were arrested within minutes of the shooting and charged with attempted murder. They denied Barbra's claims that Minns had hired them to shoot her. However, a former bodyguard of his claimed that one month earlier, a contract had been put out on her life. Authorities determined that the car used in the shooting belonged to Robert Jess Anderson; Ivery and Steen later identified him as the person who had hired them to kill her.
Minns' private detective, Dudley Bell, was also connected to the shooting after his ex-wife gave police a note written by him on Minns's hotel stationary. It had a list of guns owned by Anderson that were used in the shooting. Eight days after it, Anderson was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He agreed to cooperate with authorities; he confirmed that Bell had hired him, Ivery, and Steen to commit the shooting. However, Bell and Minns were not indicted in the case.
Surprisingly, Minns was never questioned about the attempted murder case. He continued to press the theft one against Barbra. She appeared in court in November 1980. Shockingly, he claimed that her attorney had set up the shooting as a publicity stunt. She never got to testify regarding the theft case; it was later dropped due to a technicality involving the search warrant.
In March 1981, Ivery and Steen were convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. A year later, Barbra filed a wrongful injury suit against Minns, Bell, Anderson, Ivery, and Steen. However, before depositions could begin, Minns fled the country and has been in hiding ever since.
Anderson was found guilty of soliciting a murder in 1984. Bell was also done so in 1987 after one of his employees testified against him. Both were sentenced to thirty-eight years in prison. However, Bell was released on parole in 1991.
A jury has since ordered Minns to pay Barbra $58 million for wrongful injury. He is wanted for questioning in her attempted murder. The injuries she suffered left her wheelchair bound. Fearful for her life after the shooting, she changed her name to Janni Smith. In 1983, she began rehabilitation with Dr. Jerrold Petrofsky, who was experimenting with a device that allows a paralyzed person to walk independently. She now works with paralyzed people. On November 30, 1991, she and Dr. Petrofsky were married.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 18, 1992 episode. Author Suzanne Finstad wrote the book Sleeping With the Devil about it. The movie Sleeping with the Devil was based on it.
Results: Captured. In July 1994, Richard Minns, 64, was arrested at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on suspicion of obtaining several passports with fraudulent information and names. He received a four-month sentence and fined $100,000. In November 1994, he was deported because he was in the United States illegally.
Minns has never been charged in Barbra's attempted murder although police have said they believe he was involved. She did win a $58-million dollar civil judgment against him and others for her attempted murder. On appeal this was overturned on technical grounds. Adrian Franks of Houston, hired by Bell to follow her and who tapped her phone and recorded her calls, and who was hired to kill her and installed a remote kill switch on her car, died of cancer in 2018. Minns is still alive as of 2020. Having renounced his US citizenship he now lives in Israel.
- Paraplegic Marathon Walker Reveals Identity
- Paraplegic Walker Afraid Revelations Might End Her Research
- Near-Fatal Attraction: Athlete Still a Victim of Lover's Obsession That Led to Her Paralysis
- Love and Gunfire
- Marathon Wait is Over: Fugitive Millionaire Caught
- Former health spa founder arraigned
- Millionaire given sentence, fine for passport fraud
- Minns leaves Texas, hopes for Ireland
- Judge clears way for ex-health club tycoon's deportation
- Texas millionaire held at Boston immigration center
- Minns vs. Piotrowski (1995)
- $22 million suit vs. city is reversed
- Who is Richard Minns?