Last Step to Redemption

Drug counselor Richard Entriken swam a little too easily in a sea of sharks.

Chris Doherty has since taken the lead at 1st Step. He's at the courthouse every day, dressed to impress like a union boss, standing confidently before the criminal judges, following all the lessons that Richard taught him. He's fielding calls from clients, their mothers, and their probation officers. There are drug tests to be done. Men to be saved. He's leading the mission now.

He still chokes up when he talks about the man whose enormous shoes he's trying to fill. "If I wind up being half the man Richard used to be," Doherty says, his face turning red and eyes filling with tears, "I'll have lived a full life."

Mark Skipper still imagines seeing Richard Entriken poking his head around the corner at the courthouse. "I saw the guy every day and took it for granted. He was always upbeat. If you said, 'How you doing?' he'd say 'Fantastic!' I mean, I watch out for people like that. They're usually mentally ill. He was a rare breed. He would talk to everybody. Some people think you're crazy if you say 'hello' to a stranger. He just loved people. Everybody in the courthouse knew him."

Richard Entriken, smoking a cigar at 1st Step. Family members say Richard had trouble reading, and that AA's The Big Book was probably the first he ever finished.
Richard Entriken, smoking a cigar at 1st Step. Family members say Richard had trouble reading, and that AA's The Big Book was probably the first he ever finished.
Kino Bartholomew awaits trial for murder.
Kino Bartholomew awaits trial for murder.

And just about everyone at the courthouse suspected that one of Richard's clients might have orchestrated his murder. Bill Gelin says: "All of the defense attorneys were saying: 'God, I hope it wasn't my guy.' I drew the short stick."

Kino Bartholomew was taken into custody in March, accused of premeditated murder. Gelin emphasizes that Bartholomew is innocent until proven guilty. Still, he says he couldn't possibly represent him in court again. If Bartholomew was indeed involved in Richard's death, then he abused Gelin's trust. Knowing that he referred Bartholomew to Richard has led Bill Gelin to do a lot of soul-searching in recent weeks. He says it's been the toughest blow of his career.

For Sandra Entriken, the pain is unbearable. Tears stream down her face as she reflects on him from their house in Sunrise. She stares at a picture of her deceased husband, his gold chain and diamond-studded triangle charm draped over the frame, and says: "I feel numb. I can't seem to laugh. This house is too quiet. He was the most unselfish man. He saw the good in everybody. I guess he tried to help the wrong person."

Richard hoped to retire in a few years, and the couple planned to travel. They wanted to visit, among other places, Croatia and Alaska. They talked about buying a second home, maybe in a place where they could dock their 24-foot boat.

"He was just everything to me and so many people."

On the evening of January 31, hundreds of people — former clients, attorneys, judges — crammed into Fred Hunter's Funeral Home in Davie to pay their respects to Richard Entriken. The roads leading there, University Drive and Interstate-595, were clogged too. "It looked like going into Joe Robbie stadium for a football game," Doherty remembers.

Judge Stanton Kaplan made it to the service. He remembers being approached by dozens of men who thanked him for sending them to 1st Step. For giving them a chance. Stanton has been assigned to preside over Entriken's murder case, but he plans to recuse himself. His history with both Kino Bartholomew and Richard Entriken would make it impossible to remain impartial, he said in an interview.

Rocky Entriken remembers being completely "knocked back" by the turnout that evening. He realized his brother had straightened out and that he was helping others do the same, but he never imagined the extent of the positive impact that little Ricky had on other lives.

"I thought: Wow, my kid brother who was such a mess turned out to be a success. And I was happy for him. He really had become that person we had always hoped against hope that he'd be."

Richard Entriken would have liked it — he always did love a room full of people.

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