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Attend the Tale of Stephen Richards

Here's the low-down on the notorious serial killer of Paranormal Witness Season 5, Episode 7: "Nebraska Fiend."

By Bryan Enk

So what's with the guy who terrorized the poor Pracht girls in Season 5, Episode 7 of Paranormal Witness?

How to Watch

Catch up on Paranormal Witness on Peacock or the SYFY app.

The "Nebraska Fiend" himself, Stephen Dee Richards was also known as the Kearney County Murderer. He was born on March 18, 1854 (or thereabouts) in Wheeling, West Virginia and raised a Quaker. As a child, his family moved to Ohio and he grew up in Jefferson County. Around 1875, he moved to Iowa and worked for a year at the Iowa Lunatic Asylum in Mount Pleasant, where his job was to bury dead patients.

It is speculated that this job shaped the killer inside; indeed, the Omaha Herald reported that Richards said of his tenure in the asylum, "That took away to some extent my feeling and sympathy for mankind. I could stand by a man and see him die with no more feeling than I would have for a hog. When I left there ... I didn't care for anything and had no respect for human nature."

From there, Stephen Richards wandered through Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, taking work where he could and consorting with groups of train robbers. A month after Richards arrived in Kearney, Nebraksa in February 1978, he was jailed for a minor crime. There, he met Mrs. Harelson, who had been jailed on suspicion of helping her horse thief husband escape earlier that week. Mrs. Harelson invited Richards to visit her at her Kearney County homestead, where he conjured a plan to kill her, her two daughters and her infant son and take possession of the homestead.

He went through with it — with an axe — in October 1978.

Richards fled the homestead after killing Peter Anderson, a neighbor who accused him of poisoning him. He made it all the way to Ohio before he was caught and arrested. He was taken back to Kearney County, jailed on December 28, 1978 and executed via hanging on January 15, 1879.

Stephen Dee Richards claimed the lives of nine people, three of which were children. Click here to read his chilling confession.