Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Convicted killer of Rite Aid manager gets life in prison after DA no longer seeks death penalty

Christopher Kennedy was 20 in January 2003 when he fatally shot Michael Richardson, 35, who managed a Rite Aid on Girard Avenue near 12th Street in North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, in a file photo taken in February
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, in a file photo taken in FebruaryRead more / File Photograph

A North Philadelphia man who fatally shot a Rite Aid store manager during a robbery 16 years ago was resentenced Wednesday to life in prison after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it would no longer pursue the death penalty in his case.

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina imposed the life sentence on Christopher Kennedy, 36.

Kennedy was 20 on Jan. 19, 2003, when he shot Michael Richardson, 35, who managed the Rite Aid on Girard Avenue near 12th Street in North Philadelphia, in the head execution-style.

A jury in 2004 convicted Kennedy of first-degree murder, robbery, and gun offenses, and sentenced him to death.

On Monday, Sarmina granted Kennedy a new penalty-phase hearing after conducting an evidentiary hearing.

Kennedy’s attorney, Karl Schwartz, had argued in a Post Conviction Relief Act filing that his client deserved a new penalty-phase hearing because a prosecutor at trial had referenced a biblical passage, and because instructions given to jurors during the penalty phase likely precluded consideration of relevant mitigation evidence.

Schwartz and Assistant District Attorney Paul George, assistant supervisor of the DA’s law division, did not reply to calls for comment Wednesday afternoon.

When asked why the DA’s Office did not pursue the death penalty, Ben Waxman, DA Larry Krasner’s spokesperson, said by email that “we consider every capital case on a case by case basis.”

He said the victim’s family “was notified in advance of the hearing today and the prior days which stretched into last week. They were notified and they were aware of the proceedings and what occurred today.”

Kennedy’s accomplices in the robbery, Jamaar Richardson, now 37; his brother James Richardson, now 38; and Lavar Brown, now 41, were convicted of second-degree murder, robbery, and related offenses and received mandatory sentences of life in prison. The Richardson brothers are not related to the victim.

Brown wasn’t arrested in this case until February 2004, more than a year after the Rite Aid robbery. In December 2003, he committed a murder for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005. Krasner’s office last April filed a motion saying Brown should leave death row and be resentenced to life without parole. The state Supreme Court disagreed. Brown next has an April 18 hearing before Sarmina.