Richard Alonzo Gill was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on September 6, 1976, to Theresa and José Gill while José was on duty with the US Navy there.
Richard, known as Rick to his family and friends, and his four older siblings lived with their parents in Navy housing and went to school in Hawaii until José was transferred to San Diego, California, when Rick was seven years old.
Rick did not have an easy time in school. Smaller than the other children his age, "he was bullied and humiliated, resulting in a combative attitude," according to a school psychologist's report. He never avoided a fight and spent many hours in the principal's office as a result. When José returned from sea duty and heard of his son's misbehavior, "the belt" would appear, as would the painful welts.
According to school reports, Rick had difficulty learning to read, so he was perpetually in the lowest reading group. Rick once confided to an older brother that he knew he was different from the other kids.
According to a report from his third grade teacher, "Richard does not participate in the class lessons. He seems to have difficulty cooperating with other students and can be very disruptive. He has a short fuse so ends up in fights with children whom he thinks are making fun of him."
Rick hated school and couldn't wait to leave, which he did at the age of 16. He wasn't afraid of hard work and especially enjoyed landscaping. He found a job with a man who mowed lawns and put in as many hours as the man could give him. While Rick had trouble with the written word, he had a good memory and quickly learned skills if someone clearly explained them to him.
He had married 18-year-old Stella Flores in San Diego in 2007 when he was 31 years old. She was a runaway and told an understanding Rick that her father beat her. Rick had a steady job and some money saved, and he promised to take care of her. Their first child was born ten months later, followed by a second, third, and fourth at regular intervals.
Rick and his family left San Diego and moved to Oxford, Mississippi, in 2010 when Rick was offered a job with a large landscaping service owned by one of his previous employers.
Rick adored his wife and children, but as the responsibilities accumulated, so did the stress. Rick began to drink, and as the drinking escalated, so did his temper.
Stella couldn't seem to do anything right. He began by yelling at her and the children and then questioned her every move. She could go nowhere without him asking where she went and who she was with. He would answer the phone and tell her friends she wasn't home, even though she was in the next room. He eventually succeeded in completely cutting her off from her friends and family.
Stella became increasingly alarmed when Rick began having extreme emotional highs and lows, and one day, he actually struck her. She contacted the Domestic Violence Project, which recommended several attorneys, including Robert Pruitt, who handled her divorce.
In court, when the judge rendered her decision in favor of Stella on all the divorce issues—the children's custody and support, the property division, and spousal support—Rick lost all control. He threatened the judge and lunged at Pruitt, causing the attorney to fall and injure his arm. Rick vowed to "get Pruitt" for ruining his life.