John Richardson's Homicide Case Remains Cold -- Five Years Later

Categories: Cold Case Files
Maricopa Police Department
John "J.R." Richardson
On its fifth anniversary, John Richardson's homicide case remains cold, and a hole in his mom's life remains unfilled.

Known as "J.R.," Richardson was last seen with friends at a house near 43rd Avenue and Thomas Road in Phoenix the night of June 11, 2006, according to police.

A year later, his body was found in the desert outside of Buckeye. He was 25 years old.

"The last time I spoke to him was Father's Day," Laura Pajak, Richardson's mother, tells New Times. "He was a free person really his whole life, had a lot of friends who loved him very much and who would do anything for him."

Richardson is the oldest of Pajak's four sons - three of whom have been killed.

After the death of his brother in 2006, Richardson went through a rough patch. Sporting a tattoo on his side in memory of his sibling 's murder, he mostly hung out with friends, bouncing from job to job.

The day of his disappearance, Richardson was at a friend's house. He made a call to his mom asking for a ride, But he didn't reach her, and he never followed up. Pajak later got calls from Richardson's friends saying they hadn't heard from him.

She, along with Richardson's friends, filed a missing person report with the Phoenix Police Department the next day.

But after supplying her with flyers, Pajak says the Phoenix Police Department sat on her son's case, putting little effort in keeping her informed about the investigation. In the critical first months of Richardson's disappearance, she says there was no urgency.

"To me, they felt he was gone, he just wanted to be away, "she said. "And at the crucial time he was gone, they didn't follow up. It took them three to four months to get my DNA. They said 'Oh were running it through the national [database]' and that they would call me. So often and I kept saying, 'No, there's something wrong. He wouldn't just disappear like that.'"

It wasn't until September 2007 that Pajak got answers. But not from the cops.

"I was watching the news, and a story came on about remains that were found in Buckeye, and I got the coldest chill up my spine."

Even though he wasn't known to hang out in that area, Pajak knew those were the remains of her son.

But she wouldn't get official word from authorities that her son was dead for another eight months. It was May 2008 when the Maricopa Sheriff's office called to tell her the remains had a DNA match.

"I told them point blank: 'You need to tell me if my son is dead or alive.'"

Because of the investigation, neither police nor Pajak can say how Richardson was killed.

"But I know it was bad," she said, hesitating on the words.

In the three years since her son's disappearance, the case had gone from the missing person department of the Phoenix PD to the Sheriff's Office, all with no concrete answers.

"I wrote Sheriff Arpaio and begged him not to let this become a cold case," she says. "I told him, 'This is the third son I've lost since 1995, and I need some kind of closure.'"

Now, a half a decade later, Richardson's case has a second wind. Detective Mike Johnson with the MCSO was handed the case about a year ago and is in the process of retracing the steps of the Phoenix Police.

"We have leads," Johnson tells The New Times. "I've had [this case] for a little bit now, and yeah, I hope there's a good outcome. It all just depends on where the leads take you."

Pajak hopes the leads point to justice for her son and as a member of a support group for parents of murdered children, Pajak surrounds herself with a community who understands her need for resolution.

"I have hope now," she says. "I'm hoping there's light at the end of the tunnel. But I'm still upset that the Phoenix missing person [department] didn't do anything. [We] just really love and miss him and really want justice for him. He was taken away when he shouldn't have been."

If you any have information about this case, call authorities at 602-876-3660.

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I am very disturbed at how this case has been handled. I hope the people that killed him get caught some day :( although it probably will be from another dept because if MCSO is handling this, i doubt they will make any contribution to the case. They are too busy handling lesser, petty crimes and not putting murderers in jail where they belong. Do your job MCSO!  I miss John !


I am John's younger cousin and always looked up to him and his brothers. He was an awesome person and I remember having such a great time with him. He is missed like you wouldn't believe and not a single day passes that I don't think about him. In my opinion, this case was not really given the proper attention at all. There were never any solid answers to any questions anybody had and it took months for the police department to complete one step in this case. All I want is closure for our entire family. We would just like to know who did this to John and why. Rest in paradise, John! You will always be loved and missed! 

Mike Durham
Mike Durham

Your column is a good review of a cold case.  "Missing persons" is a case label that should never be attached until an investigation decidedly demonstrates that in fact the person is missing and then it needs a recommendation and investigation objectives as well as the label.


It's so heartbreaking that Arizona has so many issues with Law Enforcement.Arizona really isn't a very safe place. Especially now, since Brewer decidedthat a six shooter would make a great State gun.


you're an idiot for that last statement; I do however agree.  Every facet of Arizona's Law Enforcement Community is a complete joke.

The cops do what the fuck they want out here and are not held to any sort of real accountability.  Cases get solved in order of easiest to hardest...hardest not having real police work put into it.

This states Justice system, Police Community, Courts, County Supervisors, Local Municipal governments, and of course, douche bag Joe...all hihglight what I am talking about.

Arizona is a great place, minus the bullshit I just mentioned.

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