Events leading up to and including May 21, 2012, as recalled by Richard Ross

By 2007, I was doing well, living the dream in San Diego, California. I ran into former clients of mine, Allan Long and Tami Riser at a friend’s wedding in Olympia, Washington. We instantly reconnected, the three of us even spending the night together.

Over the next several months, Tami decided to leave Allan and move back to be near her family in San Diego, taking their 3-year-old daughter Breanna with her. Allan also moved back to San Diego where he re-married, this time to a woman named Melissa Cruz who had a 7-year-old daughter, Hannah.

Tami and I began dating, and she eventually moved in with me. She and her ex-husband Allan shared custody of their daughter Breanna, so Tami had Breanna every-other-week. For the next five years, Tami and I enjoyed a stable, loving relationship, though our relationship with Allan and Melissa was strained as they constantly used Breanna as a bargaining tool to get what they wanted.

In early 2012, with just a few months left to finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Real Estate, I began searching for job opportunities in areas of the country with a lower cost of living. Together, Tami and I discussed moving and how we could ensure that Breanna could still be co-parented by both Tami and Allan, even from a distance.

Within a month after considering our cross-country move, Tami received a call from Allan and Melissa asking to speak with her privately. However, knowing how Allan and Melissa like to twist and distort things to their advantage, Tami insisted that I join her for the meeting. Allan and Melissa claimed that I had supposedly sexually assaulted a former friend of Tami and Allan at our house “some time ago.” Hearing these crazy allegations, I immediately told Allan and Melissa to bring the supposed “victim” with them to meet us at the police station. I wanted to clear my name of the false accusation, but Allan, Melissa and their accomplice all refused to file a police report about the supposed incident. Tami and I were both shaken by the seriousness of the lies, but we chose to just drop the issue and not report the scheme to the police. That mistake haunts me to this day. I never imagined the horror that Allan and Melissa Long would unleash upon me next in order to take me out of the picture so Breanna wouldn’t leave California with her mother Tami and me.

Just two months later—and only days after my graduation from San Diego State University—Melissa Long called to ask Tami and me if we would mind watching Hannah (who was then 9 years old), early on Monday, May 21st, 2012, and take her to school with Breanna (who was then 7 years old). We agreed, and Melissa dropped Hannah off early that day. 

I let the girls play upstairs while Tami left for work. I cleaned up the apartment and reorganized my office area downstairs. Hearing loud noises from upstairs, I checked on the girls and scolded Hannah for having her mouth stuffed full of Breanna’s bubble gum balls while jumping on Tami’s and my bed. She glared back at me as if I had broken the unspoken rule that no adult is allowed to tell Hannah what to do. 

I told both girls to calm down, and I turned on the TV so they could watch cartoons since they were finished getting ready for school. They asked me to play “find me” with them, a game where I was tasked with grabbing their feet from under the blankets and pulling the girls out onto the floor. After the game, we all laid back and watched TV.

After about half an hour, I decided to head downstairs to finish my projects. It grew quiet upstairs and before I knew what was happening, both girls darted downstairs and swinging open the front door, bolted outside. Startled, I went running after them calling for them to stop. “Here we go again,” I thought, remembering all of the times Hannah had run away from authorities like at her after-school care program at the Poway Community Center in 2012, her gymnastics class, and her first day of 3rd grade at Poway Elementary School. She also ran away from home several times. 

I yelled for Breanna to stop, and being an obedient child, she immediately listened and went back into the apartment. Not Hannah. She was halfway up the street, a block away, so I ran after her in my bare feet. I eventually caught up with her where she had hidden behind a parked motorcycle around the corner. I asked her what she was doing, to which she replied that she had done nothing wrong. I responded, “Well, running away can put you in danger, and your parents made me responsible for you right now, so I need you to come back with me to the house.” At this, Hannah took off running again. As I tried to sprint after her, I partially tore my left Achilles tendon, so I yelled out to Hannah that I was going to call her mom. That seemed to do the trick. She immediately followed me back to the house begging the whole way, “Don’t call my mom! Please don’t tell my mom!”

Inside the house, Hannah sat sulking on the stairs while Breanna flopped on the couch and watch TV. I immediately called Tami and told her that I needed her come home from work because Hannah had run away and tried to get Breanna to join her this time. 

As soon as I hung up with Tami, Hannah told me that she wanted to call her mom. I told her she could call her mom but not in the front yard like she requested but from the back enclosed patio. I then dialed Allan’s cell number (I didn’t have Melissa’s number) and handed my phone to Hannah. Once she finished her call, she came back inside the house, handed me the phone, and sat quietly on the stairs. 

Not five minutes later, there was a loud pounding on the front door. I opened it to find Allan and Melissa along with law enforcement officers from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office just minutes behind. And that is where my “living the dream” ended and my nightmare began.

To read about what happened next and how I could end up in prison, serving a sentence of 120 years-to-life plus 17 years for something I didn’t do, continue with CASE ISSUES.