Police continue search for suspected killer

PARKERSBURG -Authorities are still searching for the man accused of killing a one-year-old girl and robbing Five Guys earlier this week.

As of Friday evening, Curtis Dean Richards Jr., 30, of 906 Fourth St., St. Marys, was still on the run from law enforcement agencies, said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.

Richards is known to drive a black Toyota truck with West Virginia license plate 4XA 886, Martin said.

“We have had lots of info over the past 24 hours, and we are following up on all of the tips,” Martin said Friday afternoon.

Investigators are asking anyone who knows the whereabouts of Richards to call the Parkersburg Police Department at 304-424-8444 or any local law enforcement agency so that he can be arrested, Martin said. Anonymous tips may be left at www.pkbpolice.com.

Richards is now believed to have fled the area, officials said. The Wood County Sheriff’s Office, Parkersburg Police Department and Vienna Police Department are searching for Richards in conjunction with other local and national law enforcement, officials said.

The search for Richards has expanded beyond the Mid-Ohio Valley, Martin said. Martin declined to provide details of the expanded search except to say that the U.S. Marshals were involved.

On Tuesday, Richards allegedly killed his girlfriend’s one-year-old daughter Ariella Noel Merinar, who was left in his care along with her almost 3-year-old sister while the mother went to work, Martin said Tuesday.

Ariella Merinar’s death was ruled a homicide by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston on Thursday morning, Martin said.

Police questioned Richards on Tuesday until he requested an attorney, Martin said.

There was not enough evidence on Tuesday to arrest Richards at the time, Martin said Thursday. A warrant for murder was issued for Richards on Thursday morning, Martin said.

At 6:15 a.m. Wednesday, Richards used keys from a previously held management position at Five Guys, at 709 Grand Central Ave., Vienna, to enter the restaurant, said Sgt. K. Parrish with the Vienna Police Department on Thursday.

Once inside, he accessed the safe, stole more than $1,000 and a purse containing the wedding gifts of a newlywed woman that had been left by accident the following day, said Parrish.

Richards locked the door behind him, and left the restaurant in such a condition that the robbery was not noticed for approximately 30 minutes after the store opened on Wednesday, Parrish said Thursday.

Richards is a repeat offender in West Virginia, Martin said.

According to the West Virginia Department of Corrections website, Richards was on parole at the time of Merinar’s death, and was expected to be on parole until at least 2018. Richards was sentenced for one count of forgery or uttering in Wood County in 2006, for two counts of forgery or uttering in Kanawha County in 2009, for one count of forgery or uttering in Raleigh County in 2010, and for one charge of daytime burglary without breaking in Wood County without a given date, the website said.