by Max Brantley
U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke announced Friday the indictment of a Kingsland couple, Wanda Faye Richart, 50, and Charles Walter "Bubba" Richart, 52, for making false statements in an investigation of the disappearance of Bubba Richart's niece Christina, 14.
The indictment says Wanda Richart killed Christina, who lived with the Richarts along with two nephews of the Richarts, after an argument in the family's home in Ozark in 1999. According to the news release, she took the girl into a bathroom, locked the door and began running water in the tub. Bubba and two other people in the home heard Christina screaming for help. Minutes later, Duke said, Wanda Richart opened the bathroom door and witnesses saw Christina's lifeless, wet body on the floor.
After the death, the government says the Richarts and two others buried the body and burned the girl's clothes. The couple then moved to Fordyce and fabricated a story that the child had moved away. Wanda Richart allegedly twice threatened the two witnesses if they told anyone what had happened.
Federal authorities entered the case in 2005 and Duke said the Richarts told varying stories in the course of interviews over two years.
The indictment formally charges the Richarts each with a count of conspiring to make false statements and a count of making false statements -- crimes that carry prison terms up to five years each. Bubba Richart is also charged with being an accessory after the fact in making false statements.
State Police and the FBI co-operated in the investigation. Duke said she was hopeful state authorities will be able to pursue murder charges against the couple.
"This is a tragic case," Duke said. "I cannot imagine the terror that young Christina Richart must have experienced before her death."