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The Times

GARY — Richard Meadows wanted to one day make it in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The 10-year-old boy wanted to set a record as the first child to write to a million. He only made it to 44,000 before a bullet pierced through the boy's window and hit him in the head. 

Richard had been sleeping in his bed the morning of Aug. 14, 1993, at his home in the 4700 block of Delaware Street in Gary. The head of the bed had been facing the window of the front of the house. 

His family later recalled Richard got out of bed, went to a hallway and said, "Oh this hurts," before falling. He later died at an area hospital. 

Richard's homicide happened during an era when Gary was notoriously referred to as the murder capital. That year alone, the city logged 105 homicides, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. 

The homicide shook the hardened city, prompting residents to march down the city streets demanding an end to the violence. 

In the years following the shooting, police maintained Richard was an innocent victim in the random act of violence that led to his death.

Police initially arrested three people after the shooting, but the suspects were released pending charges. It took detectives and prosecutors years to build the case against the suspects in the shooting. 

The first break in the case came when ballistic tests determined the bullet that killed Richard came from a .45-caliber gun recovered by police. The gun was recovered from Richard Strong who was shot to death on Sept. 30, 1993, by a Gary police officer. Police at the time said Strong had pointed a gun at the officer.

The gun was later traced to one of Strong's cousins who had been a suspect early on in the homicide investigation. 

In 1995, a Lake County grand jury returned murder indictments against Jason R. Best, Damian S. Fields, Myron L. Jeter and Nathan R. Nichols. 

The following year, Best, Fields and Nichols were released from Lake County Jail without bond pending their trials. The men were released after trial delays were caused by the state, according to past Times' stories. 

Indiana law states that defendants are entitled to be released from jail if the person is not brought to trial within six months of the charges being filed. Defendants can be held for longer if any court delay is caused by the defense or by a congested court calendar. 

Jeter at that time had agreed to cooperate with the state and was negotiating a plea agreement. It's unknown what happened to Jeter's case, because it was sealed on March 18, 2014. His case is no longer part of the public record.

On Sept. 25, 1997, Nichols pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal, a Class D felony. He was sentenced to one year in prison followed by two years probation. However, Nichols didn't have to serve any time in prison, because of how many credit days he had accumulated while the case was pending. 

Nichols admitted that he was in a car with Best and Fields when the group got into an altercation with another unidentified individual, according to the plea agreement. Best and Fields were accused of firing while they were near Richard's home.

After the shooting, Nichols admitted that he took Best and Fields to his girlfriend's home to avoid apprehension by the police.

Nichols' defense attorney, Darnail Lyles, said during the sentencing hearing that what prompted the shooting was someone saying "What," followed by someone in their vehicle saying "What this," according to a court transcript. Shots then broke out. 

Nichols, who had been robbed at some point prior to the shooting, told the court during his sentencing hearing that he prayed to God to keep him on the right track. He said he was employed and was trying to take care of his children.

"It's very hard for me to come to court and do this, but this is what's right," he said. 

Richard's mother, Golean Meadows, during the hearing said she knew Nichols' plea agreement and testimony were important in the case. 

Meadows told the court that nothing would bring her son back.

"I'm not going to get an eye for an eye or death for a death," she said. "All I can hope is that justice, regardless of how much we're going to work together with this, that we still be fair about this." 

She described her son as being a nearly perfect child.

"Now he was just going into fourth grade, A/B student, Catholic school, but regardless to his grade average or his little personality, he was 10 years old and he was asleep," she said. 

Meadows went on to say that she tried to be a good parent and was home that night. She didn't know her son was in danger as he slept in his bed that morning. 

Fields and Best were sentenced April 16, 1998. Fields pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal, a Class D felony, and was sentenced to two years in the Lake County sheriff's work release program. 

Best pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness, a Class D felony, and was sentenced to two years in community corrections. 

Best admitted to firing a .38-caliber revolver into the air the morning Richard was killed, according to court records. Fields admitted to hiding the revolver in case they were stopped by police. 

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