Profile of Richard Wade Farley, Mass Murderer

Stalking and Workplace Violence

Richard Wade Farley
Public Domain

Richard Wade Farley is a mass murderer responsible for the 1988 murders of seven co-workers at the Electromagnetic Systems Labs (ESL) in Sunnyvale, California. What sparked the murders was his relentless stalking of a co-worker.

Richard Farley - Background

Richard Wade Farley was born on July 25, 1948, at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. His father was an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force, and his mother was a homemaker. They had six children, of whom Richard was the eldest. The family frequently moved before settling in Petaluma, California, when Farley was eight years old.

According to Farley's mother, there was much love in the house, but the family displayed little outward affection.

During his childhood and teen years, Farley was a quiet, well-behaved boy who required little attention from his parents. In high school, he showed an interest in math and chemistry and took his studies seriously. He did not smoke, drink, or use drugs, and entertained himself with playing table tennis and chess, dabbling in photography, and baking. He graduated 61st out of 520 high school students.

According to friends and neighbors, other than occasionally roughhousing with his brothers, he was a non-violent, well-mannered and helpful young man.

Farley graduated from high school in 1966 and attended Santa Rosa Community College, but dropped out after one year and joined the US Navy where he stayed for ten years.

Navy Career

Farley graduated first in his class of six at Naval Submarine School but withdrew voluntarily. After finishing basic training, he was trained to be a cryptologic technician - a person who maintains electronic equipment. The information that he was exposed to was highly classified. He qualified for top-secret security clearance. The investigation into qualifying individuals for this level of security clearance was repeated every five years.

Electromagnetic Systems Laboratory

After his discharge in 1977, Farley purchased a home in San Jose and began working as a software technician at Electromagnetic Systems Laboratory (ESL), a defense contractor in Sunnyvale, California.

ESL was involved in the development of strategic signal processing systems and was a major supplier of tactical reconnaissance systems to the US military. Much of the work that Farley was involved in at ESL was described as being "vital to the national defense" and highly sensitive. In included his work on equipment that enabled the military to determine the location and strength of enemy forces.

Up until 1984, Farley received four ESL performance evaluations for this work. He scores were high - 99 percent, 96 percent, 96.5 percent, and 98 percent.

Relationship With Fellow Employees

Farley was friends with a few of his co-workers, but some found him to be arrogant, egotistical and boring. He liked to brag about his gun collection and his good marksmanship. But others who worked closely with Farley found him to be conscientious about his work and generally a nice guy.

However, all of that changed, starting in 1984.

Laura Black

In the spring of 1984, Farley was introduced to ESL employee Laura Black. She was 22 years old and had been working as an electrical engineer for just under a year. For Farley, it was love at first sight. For Black, it was beginning of a four-year-long nightmare.

For the next four years, Farley's attraction to Laura Black turned into a relentless obsession. At first Black would politely decline his invitations, but when he seemed unable to comprehend or accept her saying no to him, she stopped communicating with him as best she could.

Farley began writing letters to her, averaging two a week. He left pastries on her desk. He stalked her and cruised by her home repeatedly. He joined an aerobics class on the same day that she joined. His calls became so annoying that Laura changed to an unlisted number.

Because of his stalking, Laura moved three times between July 1985 and February 1988, but Farley found her new address each time and obtained a key to one of her homes after stealing it off of her desk at work.

Between the fall of 1984 and February 1988, she received approximately 150 to 200 letters from him, including two letters he sent to her parents' home in Virginia where she was visiting in December 1984. She had not provided him with her parents' address.

Some of Black's coworkers tried to talk to Farley about his harassment of Black, but he reacted either defiantly or by threatening to commit violent acts. In October 1985, Black turned to the human resources department for help.

During the first meeting with human resources, Farley agreed to stop sending letters and gifts to Black, following her home and using her work computer, but in December 1985, he was back to his old habits. Human Resources stepped in again in December 1985 and again in January 1986, each time issuing Farley a written warning.

Nothing Else to Live For

After the January 1986 meeting, Farley confronted Black at the parking lot outside of her apartment. During the conversation, Black said Farley mentioned guns, told her he no longer was going to ask her what to do, but rather tell her what to do.

Over that weekend she received a letter from him, stating he would not kill her, but that he had "a whole range of options, each getting worse and worse." He warned her that, "I do own guns and I'm good with them," and asked her not to "push" him. He continued on that if neither of them yielded, "pretty soon I crack under the pressure and run amok destroying everything in my path until the police catch me and kill me."

In mid-February 1986, Farley confronted one of the human resource managers and told her that ESL had no right to control his relationships with other individuals. The manager warned Farley that sexual harassment was illegal and that if he did not leave Black alone, his conduct would lead to his termination. Farley told her that if he were terminated from ESL, he would have nothing else to live for, that he had guns and was not afraid to use them, and that he would "take people with him." The manager asked him directly if he was saying that he would kill her, to which Farley answered yes, but he would take others, too.

Farley continued to stalk Black, and in May 1986, after nine years with ESL, he was fired.

Growing Anger and Aggression

Being fired seemed to fuel Farley's obsession. For the next 18 months, he continued to stalk Black, and his communications with her became more aggressive and threatening. He also spent time lurking around the ESL parking lot.

In the summer of 1986, Farley began dating a woman named Mei Chang, but he continued to harass Black. He was also having financial problems. He lost his home, his car, and his computer and he owed over $20,000 in back taxes. None of this deterred his harassment of Black, and in July 1987, he wrote to her, warning her not to get a restraining order. He wrote, "It might not really occur to you how far I'm willing to go to upset you if I decide that's what I'm forced to do."

Letters along this same line continued over the next several months.

In November 1987 Farley wrote, "You cost me a job, forty thousand dollars in equity taxes I can't pay, and a foreclosure. Yet I still like you. Why do you want to find out how far I'll go?" He ended the letter with, "I absolutely will not be pushed around, and I'm beginning to get tired of being nice."

In another letter, he told her that he did not want to kill her because he wanted her to have to live to regret the consequences of not responding to his romantic gestures.

In January, Laura found a note from him on her car, with a copy of her apartment key attached. Frightened and fully aware of her vulnerability she decided to seek the help of an attorney.

On February 8, 1988, she was granted a temporary restraining order against Richard Farley, which included that he stay 300 yards away from her and not contact her in any way.


The day after Farley received the restraining order he began to plan his revenge. He bought over $2,000 in guns and ammunition. He contacted his lawyer to have Laura removed from his will. He also sent a package to Laura's attorney claiming that he had proof that he and Laura had a secret relationship.

The court date for the restraining order was February 17, 1988. On February 16, Farley drove to ESL in a rented motor home. He was dressed in military fatigues with a loaded bandoleer slung over his shoulders, black leather gloves, and a scarf around his head and earplugs.

Before leaving the motor home, he armed himself with a 12-gauge Benelli Riot semi-automatic shotgun, a Ruger M-77 .22-250 rifle with a scope, a Mossberg 12-gauge pump action shotgun, a Sentinel .22 WMR revolver, a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, a Browning .380 ACP pistol and a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol. He also tucked a knife in his belt, grabbed a smoke bomb and a gasoline container, and then headed to the entrance of ESL.

As Farley made his way across the ESL parking lot, he shot and killed his first victim Larry Kane and continued shooting at others who ducked for cover. He entered the building by blasting through the security glass and kept on shooting at the workers and the equipment.

He made his way to Laura Black's office. She attempted to protect herself by locking the door to her office, but he shot through it. He then shot directly at Black. One bullet missed and the other shattered her shoulder, and she fell unconscious. He left her and moved on through the building, going room to room, shooting at those he found hidden under desks or barricaded behind office doors.

When the SWAT team arrived, Farley managed to avoid their snipers by staying on the move inside the building. A hostage negotiator was able to make contact with Farley, and the two talked on and off during a five-hour siege.

Farley told the negotiator that he had gone to ESL to shoot up equipment and that there were specific people he had in mind. This later contradicted Farley's lawyer who used the defense that Farley had gone there to kill himself in front of Laura Black, not shoot at people. During his conversations with the negotiator, Farley never expressed any remorse for the seven individuals killed and admitted that he did not know any of the victims except for Laura Black.

Hunger is what finally ended the mayhem. Farley was hungry and asked for a sandwich. He surrendered in exchange for the sandwich.

Seven people were dead and four injured, including Laura Black.

Victims Killed:

  • Lawrence J. Kane, 46
  • Wayne "Buddy" Williams Jr., 23
  • Donald G. Doney, 36
  • Joseph Lawrence Silva, 43
  • Glenda Moritz, 27
  • Ronald Steven Reed, 26
  • Helen Lamparter, 49

Wounded were Laura Black, Gregory Scott, Richard Townsley, and Patty Marcott.

Death Penalty

Farley was charged with seven counts of capital murder, assault with a deadly weapon, second-degree burglary, and vandalism.

During the trial, it became evident that Farley was still in denial about his non-relationship with Black. He also seemed to lack an understanding of the depth of his crime. He told another prisoner, "I think they should be lenient since it's my first offense." He added that if he did it again, then they should "throw the book" at him.

A jury found him guilty of all charges, and on January 17, 1992, Farley was sentenced to death.

On July 2, 2009, the California Supreme Court denied his death penalty appeal.

As of 2013, Farley is on death row in San Quentin Prison.

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Richard Wade Farley, Mass Murderer." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, July 30). Profile of Richard Wade Farley, Mass Murderer. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Richard Wade Farley, Mass Murderer." ThoughtCo. (accessed July 31, 2021).