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Don Richter Founder of Secret Witness


Don and Patti Richter

When I asked Don Richter what compelled him to start Secret Witness he said without hesitation it was the 1977 kidnapping, rape and murder of 6 year old Lisa Bonham. This was a crime that rocked our community. To think someone could snatch a little girl off the street and disappear, triggered myself and others to gather in search of a way for citizens to help solve crimes.


Don stated, "Secret Witness proves that a public problem can be efficiently solved by private citizens instead of running to City Hall, the Legislature or Congress creating another level of bureaucracy and raising taxes." He also said it should be noted that since the start of Secret Witness some 35 years ago it has never paid an employee and that it is solely run by volunteers.  


Q: What was Secret Witness like in the beginning?


In the beginning we made a lot of mistakes and our growth was very slow. In fact in the first month we received four telephone calls, three were wrong numbers and the fourth call reported a dog barking at 2:00am. At this point self-doubt set in, but we continued to promote it because we believed (we knew) how it could add value to our community. My wife Patti was also involved with Secret Witness from the beginning and my concern for Lisa Bonham's kidnaping, rape and murder was also mirrored in her.  


We knew that many people with vital information would not come forward out of fear of retaliation or they did not want to testify in court. To promote Secret Witness we gave speeches to over 50 service clubs, churches and anywhere we could gather a small group of citizens together who would listen. Our catchphrases were: "Police fight crime with guns and tear gas, all you need is a phone"... "Crime expands according to our willingness to tolerate it"..."All that is necessary for crime to win is for good people to do nothing." These and other power phrases we repeated over and over and over.  


Then and now the local television stations have been the dominant voices for Secret Witness. More recently we have obtained generous free billboard exposure from Clear Channel Outdoor.  


Q: What are the most memorable case's for you?


Memorable cases would have to include Secret Witness' role in increasing the population of Death Row with merciless killers like James Biela, David Middleton, Siaosi Vanisi and Tamir Hamilton.



James Biela
David Middleton
Siaosi Vanisi
Tamir Hamilton

Q: In June of 2000 new DNA evidence was able to identify Lisa Bonham's Killer. Because her kidnapping, rape and murder was the compelling force that started Secret Witness how did you react or feel when you were told the news?


Patti, myself and all the Secret Witness Board of Directors never lost hope Lisa's murder would get solved. She was always at the top of our minds those 23 years. The demon that haunted us for 23 years finally had a face with the arrest and confession of Stephen Robert Smith. Smith was the worst of the worst. When he murdered Lisa he was out of prison on parole for molesting two Spark's girls. After his arrest, Smith admitted to over twenty other unknown sexual assaults in the Reno and Sparks area, most of which were never reported because Smith so thoroughly terrorized his young victims they "dare not" tell their parents. Even as I say these words to you I feel like going to the bathroom and throw up.


Q: How does someone remain completely anonymous?


At no cost to taxpayers, Secret Witness provides a secured telephone line 24/7/365 where citizens with information about unsolved crimes can call and anonymously provide information which we forward to law enforcement. All information is forwarded, we make no judgment as to its value. Callers are given a code number composed of the date hour and minute of that call such as 9.42.05/13/14. If that information results in a crime solved, we invite the secret witness to call us again, provide the case number and then provide us with instructions as to where we are to drop the cash reward which is up to $2,500.00.


It is a smart idea to give people options in this digital era and Secret Witness has kept up with technology by allowing people to text or go online. You can also download the Secret Witness App for your iPhone or Android.


With the increasing violence in our schools, students who would normally never come forward have the option of texting in information while remaining completely anonymous.




See a CRIME call the line: 775-322-4900

Now retired Don and his wife Patti live 6 months in Reno and 6 months in Arizona. Don is still on the Secret Witness Board but says the people who are there now continue to guide, nurture and energize Secret Witness.


Judge Dorothy Nash-Holmes 


These babies were born to a clean mother who was a former meth user. She has been in Judge Nash-Holmes COD Program for about a year. These adorable baby twin girls are now a healthy 3 months old and named after both grandmothers. This is another great success story proving that Specialty Courts work.  


If you have someone you think should be acknowledged or spotlighted in our newsletter please contact:
Marion Straw 775-323-8273