The Mysterious Death of Keni Richards Pt. 1

“This is where I want to die with my friends and family

With Mark Lanagen playing ‘Praying ground and Lexington slowdown’.

This would be a great death !!! The Indian spirits would forgive me for the many I hurt and did wrong

A great launching into the 4th dimension!!!!!!!!!

Ill book it in 2059”

Published on Facebook
Published on Facebook

This was a comment Keni left on a picture of a lone boathouse floating in the pond at the 29 Palms Inn in Twentynine Palms, California. The picture and comment were posted in 2015. Keni died in April, two years later.

It was after midnight, everyone was asleep. My baby. My partner. Our dogs. I found my cell phone and zoomed through Facebook. I promised myself I wouldn’t do that in the middle of the night anymore.

“RIP Keni”

Posts from fans around the world to Keni Richards filled the feed.

“Keni died,” I said, looking over to Michael.

“Oh no,” he said half asleep before rolling back over.

Keni and I weren’t close. I liked him from a distance. In close quarters for long periods of time he would ramble. I found it overwhelming. Every word someone says is taken and processed, but with Keni there were too many words. He gave no time to reflect or respond to a point of conversation before moving on. He had too much to say. He was angry at Autograph, the 80s band who never included him in their reunion tour. There was a constant current of stories from his previous lives. Stories of David Lee Roth, or escorting soap stars to parties outfitted in diamond studded collars and crawling in on a leash, or of Dr. Drew discovering him as an artist. There were many more stories, some I could understand and most sent over my head in a missile of spit and fury.

Photo published on Facebook
Photo published on Facebook

I visited his house and saw his paintings. He would drop by my house if he needed a ride or a drinking partner (even when I was nine months pregnant).

"Hey you wanna walk down and get a beer or something?" he screamed over my barking dogs. "No, man. I'm pregnant. I'm about to have a baby any day now." "Oh....I took an eighth of these mushrooms, got out of bed and rode an elevator down, turned into a female cockroach and walked out onto the streets of Manhattan in front of a Puerto Rican restaurant. Then I walked outside and it's (singing) 'It's a small world after all...' All over the mountains."

Published on Facebook
Published on Facebook

Keni was a little crazy, but he was a good person.

He owned a very small house off a dirt road. It was strange, cold and always going through a renovation. He loved his pit bull, Beatrice, and was still in love with his ex-wife (though he never said so verbatim). He moved to Joshua Tree with a broken heart, like many of us do. It is a place of healing.

Published on Facebook
Published on Facebook
Published on Facebook
Published on Facebook

I fell back asleep and dreamt of Keni. He was in a public restroom sitting on a closed toilet, covered in paint, talking loud and fast. That was Keni. That was the real Keni. I don’t remember what he said but I knew it was him. When I woke up, I asked Michael, “Do you remember what I said last night?”

“Keni died.”

“Yeah.”

“It was bound to happen.”

This marked the beginning of a very dark journey: mourning the loss of a friend who struggled with substance abuse. Since, I have grown accustomed to responding with “But he was doing so much better.”

Keni is not listed on Wikipedia so you may have to do the work of a Google search. He was the drummer for a heavy metal band called Autograph from 1983 to 1988. I didn’t know of Autograph at the time. I only knew Keni as an eccentric artist who would stop into Pie for the People, a local pizza shop, every so often. He always thought he was dying of something, whether it be age or toxic paints he used without proper protection. He came in around the early winter of 2014, stuttering and trembling over a cane.

Published on Facebook
Published on Facebook

After meeting Keni, the employees at Pie would play “Turn Up The Radio”, Autograph’s signature song on YouTube and cheer as Keni stole the opening scene.

Keni survived a 20 plus year addiction with heroin. Over the last three years, I watched his restoration: he ate better foods, developed a friendship with a doctor he respected, stopped the manic rambling, committed to shrooms for a recreational high and could walk without pain or the cane. He was healing.

This is the most frustrating part of remembering Keni― I watched him come back from the dead. However, his reputation and the articles you might read from various metal music news sites lead you to believe he was out here in the desert riding his own melt. One local even referred to it as an “ignominious death.”

People believe they know you. If they read something about you or get an impression of you one time in one environment, they really believe they know you. Instead of asking questions, they make assumptions. Instead of offering help, they criticize from a distance. And if you have the misfortune of dying famous, small websites or blogs will air your dirty laundry and condemn you for a rumor born long before they were. People think they can do whatever they want to your image, your memory or your reputation based on what they think they know about you.

I knew Keni, but I don’t really know what was going on with him. If he was back on drugs, he would have lied to me about it. If people were after him, he wouldn’t tell me because I was a new mom. The mystery remains with what really happened to my friend, Keni Richards.

“The Ties That Bind Us” by Keni Richards
 "Inspired by MILES DAVIS AND 102 TEMP WITH THE FLU" Keni wrote.
“The Ties That Bind Us” by Keni Richards "Inspired by MILES DAVIS AND 102 TEMP WITH THE FLU" Keni wrote.

I am suspicious of his death. The first rumor immediately upon learning of his death was suicide. It didn’t sit right with me. He suffered through many lows but this was not one of them. Shortly afterward, I spoke with someone who “jammed” with him the weekend prior to his death. He stated that Keni was stabbed. Then, another person from Los Angeles claimed he was shot. Someone in Joshua Tree confirmed this and told me he was shot twice in the stomach.

Keni died on April 8th, so I waited almost four months before contacting the county and asking them for a cause of death. The Public Information Officer of San Bernardino County referred me to Public Affairs. I was given a number for the county coroner but it rang and rang. I came back full circle and was finally referred to Jodi Miller of The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department, Public Affairs Division.

“There is a death investigation being conducted and these types of investigations can take several months. It is not uncommon for toxicology results to cause a delay in the coroner investigator being able to determine cause and/or manner of death,” Miller wrote.

At this point, I am unable to get any firm details about the death of Keni. And because his body and story are indefinitely strung up in limbo, there is no sense of peace. I was not invited to his private service last month, so I have yet to say goodbye.

The image of Keni dying alone in his house crawls under my skin, inflames, annoys, infects and gnaws on me. He was 60 and maybe he got into trouble. Maybe he didn’t. What I do know is Keni just wanted company as he aged. He wanted friends and a lover, a little conversation and confessional. That might be something we all deserve before we die. In his final chapter, Keni didn’t get it. He died the way he dreaded living: alone.

Photo of Keni Richards’ residence posted on Facebook.
Photo of Keni Richards’ residence posted on Facebook.

The first thing Keni ever said to me was “I see a white light around you.” He was standing in front of the counter at Pie, flicking his wrist up as if holding a mangy paint brush up to a canvas. He wore tiny sunglasses after dark. His curly hair reached to me from behind a bandanna, springing and quaking with his voice like an animated crayon drawing.. He was a combination of Hunter S. Thompson and Liberace.

“Hammer of the Gods” painted by Richards
“Hammer of the Gods” painted by Richards

The last time I saw Keni, he was outside my house because his vehicle ran out of gas. He needed a ride back home. I let him out of the car door, rolled down the window and leaned out to say “Call me any time. I mean it.”

The last thing Keni ever said to me was “I will be alright.”

Keni Richards in 2000
Keni Richards in 2000
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