Retro Charlotte

July 1991: Murder at Leather & Lace topless bar

“Clarence ‘Billy Jack’ Richardson with lawyer Susan Weigand in court. He faces murder and assault charges in a fatal shooting last July outside a Charlotte topless bar.” February, 1992
“Clarence ‘Billy Jack’ Richardson with lawyer Susan Weigand in court. He faces murder and assault charges in a fatal shooting last July outside a Charlotte topless bar.” February, 1992 The Charlotte Observer

On July 17, 1991 a manager at the Leather & Lace strip club on Monroe Road shot two brothers to death and wounded a third. The manager, Clarence“Billy Jack” Richardson, was a convicted felon on work release for a drug conviction. Richardson was sentenced to life in prison where he died, or as the NC Department of Corrections record shows - “Last movement: 06/08/2011”.

The Observer’s David Perlmutt reported:

“Clarence Richardson calls himself ‘Billy Jack.’ He lived in Charlotte's satellite jail and managed the Leather and Lace.

“Late Tuesday at the topless bar, he crossed paths with the Kirkpatrick brothers, out for a celebration. Minutes later, Barry and Brian Kirkpatrick were dead; older brother Jim was critically wounded. Richardson was in the Mecklenburg County Jail on Wednesday, charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

“Now, state and county authorities question whether Richardson, 43, should have been managing the nightclub in the first place because he was a convicted felon. State Alcoholic Beverage Control officials say they will investigate revoking the bar's liquor license. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Department also will reevaluate whether to let work-release inmates work where liquor is served. But Wednesday, they stood by Richardson's release, saying he had been a model inmate. ‘You never know. You make a judgment call,’ said Chief Deputy Kenn Brown. ‘Anytime something like this happens we review our guidelines. If there's something we can do to make them safer, then we'll do it.’

“It was supposed to be a fun night out on the town for the brothers. In June, Barry Kirkpatrick, 20, came to Charlotte from the Kirkpatricks' hometown of Wintersville, Ohio, to spend the summer with Brian, 26, and Terri Kirkpatrick, who married May 11. The two brothers worked construction at Wood- Love Construction Co. in Charlotte. Tuesday afternoon, Jim Kirkpatrick, 28, a dentist known as ‘J.E.,’ arrived in Charlotte to celebrate his new practice in Belpre, Ohio. The three brothers and Terri went to dinner before she left to go to her nursing job at Carolinas Medical Center's cardiac intensive-care unit, where she's worked since 1988. By midnight, the brothers entered the foyer at Leather and Lace East at 4205 Monroe Rd., one of three in Charlotte. A bartender refused to let them in. He said one of the Kirkpatricks was drunk. The four argued. Richardson got in the dispute. Richardson left and returned with a .45-caliber handgun, police said. By the glass front doors, he and the Kirkpatricks, who were unarmed, argued again. About 12:18 a.m., the brothers stepped outside and the shooting began, police said. Four bullets, fired from inside, ripped through the glass door. Brian and Barry were shot in the chest. They died in the parking lot. Two bullets blasted J.E. Kirkpatrick's stomach and arm. He was rushed to the emergency room at Carolinas Medical Center and was in the operating room by 1:15 a.m. By 4:30 a.m., he was admitted to intensive care. At 6:30 a.m., Terri Kirkpatrick called her mother. ‘J.E. is in intensive care,’ Steve Hughes said his stepdaughter told him. ‘Brian and Barry are in the morgue. Brian meant everything to me. He was my whole life.’ Late Wednesday, J.E. Kirkpatrick was in critical but stable condition. Richardson told police he fired in self-defense. The Kirkpatricks, he said, were charging him and he feared for his life.

“In 1989, Richardson was convicted of possessing 7 grams of cocaine with intent to sell and deliver. He got a five-year suspended sentence, with supervised probation. He violated that probation twice, court records show, when drug tests showed cocaine in his urine. On May 31, he was ordered to serve six months in the Mecklenburg Satellite Jail. That day, he applied for work release. Rules for work release stipulate that an inmate be supervised and report to jail after work, Chief Deputy Brown said. The type of work, he said, doesn't matter as long as it's legal. ‘The criteria is not the nature of the place,’ Brown said. But Wednesday's tragedy devastated a close-knit family. James Kirkpatrick often boasted he had an instant basketball team with his five sons, tall and athletic. At Christmas, it was tradition for all six Kirkpatrick men to walk into the Wintersville, Ohio, high school gym and challenge the school's basketball team. “‘The old man would announce: My sons and I are here to play your team,’” said James Abrams, a lawyer and family friend who coaches the high school team in Wintersville. ‘They'd scrimmage us and we'd all have good, clean fun.’ But in a moment of violence, James Kirkpatrick lost two members of his team.”