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, Barbra Piotrowski. They were a glamorous presence on the Houston social scene. Minns was a charismatic, youthful-looking health club tycoon when they met on a Colorado ski slope. Barbra was a bright and beautiful California pre-med student and part-time model twenty-four years his junior. Their relationship went well until Minns's wife showed up one day looking for him. Minns explained to Barbra that he and his wife were separated, and she accepted his explanation. He later bought an expensive townhouse for her, but the relationship became strained after Minns learned that Barbra 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. Barbra took several pieces of furniture and jewelry that Minns had given to her. Minns 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 did return, he was with another woman. Barbra was furious and tried to leave. However, he convinced her to stay. A few minutes later, the police arrived and Minns had Barbra arrested for stealing these 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 her in her jail cell. He had a document written by Minns that he wanted her to sign. If she would sign it, she would be released. The document stated that she had never met Minns, never dated him, 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 Minns with her purse. Thirty-six hours later, she miscarried. She was eventually released, but Minns continued to harass and stalk her.
On April 17, 1980, two detectives served her 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. These items 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 a Houston doughnut shop lot. 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 Minns claimed that one month earlier, a contract had been put out on Barbra's life. Authorities determined that the car used in the shooting belonged to Robert Jess Anderson; Ivery and Steen later identified Anderson as the person who had hired them to kill Barbra.
Minns's private detective Dudley Bell was also connected to the shooting after his ex-wife gave police a note, written by Bell on Minns's hotel guest stationary. The note had a list of guns owned by Anderson that were used in the shooting. Eight days after the shooting, Anderson was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Anderson agreed to cooperate with authorities; he confirmed that Dudley Bell had hired him and the other two men 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 case against Barbra. She appeared in court in November 1980. Shockingly, Minns claimed that her attorney had set up the shooting as a publicity stunt. Barbra never got to testify regarding the theft case; it was later dropped due to a technicality involving the search warrant.
In March of 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, Steen, and Ivery. 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 found guilty of soliciting a murder in 1987 after one of his employees testified against him. Both were sentenced to thirty-eight years in prison. However, in 1991, Bell was released on parole.
A jury has since ordered Minns to pay Barbra $58 million for wrongful injury. Minns is wanted for questioning in the attempted murder of Barbra Piotrowski. The injuries she suffered left her bound to a wheelchair. Fearful for her life after the shooting, Barbra 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 people who are paralyzed. On November 30, 1991, she and Dr. Petrofsky married.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the March 18, 1992 episode. Author Suzanne Finstad wrote the book Sleeping With the Devil about the case. The movie Sleeping with the Devil was based on the case.
Results: Captured. In July of 1994, Richard Minns, 64, was arrested at the 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 of 1994, he was deported because he was in the United States illegally.
Minns has never been charged in the attempted murder of Piotrowski although police have said they believe he was involved. Piotrowski did win a $58-million dollar civil judgment against Minns and others for the attempted murder. On appeal this was overturned on technical grounds. Adrian Franks of Houston, Texas, hired by Dudley Bell to follow Barbra and who tapped her phone and recorded her calls, and who was hired to kill Piotrowski and installed a remote kill switch on her car died of cancer in 2018. Richard Minns is still alive (2019). Having renounced his US citizenship he now lives in Israel.
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