Sometime after 10 pm on March 1, 1982, Ricky, Larry, and Duane were joined at 2380 Nebula Street by Roy Olmstead, an 18-year-old Midas Muffler mechanic who had attended and graduated from Enterprise High with Larry. The four young men had been in the house for about twenty minutes when Duane and Ricky decided to go over to Enterprise High to steal a floodlight from the school’s tennis courts. They wanted a portable light that they could use in their weight room as well as to light a basketball hoop they planned to put up outside. Roy, who had prior arrests for drunk driving and stealing vehicles’ CB radios, did not want to go along, so Ricky and Duane left the house alone at around 11 pm. It was raining, and a police report from later in the night noted that Ricky, who didn’t like cold weather, was wearing five shirts, two pairs of long johns, and jeans. The two boys drove to Enterprise in Duane’s car. They took two gym bags containing rope and a wrench to loosen the bolts on the light.
Around 15 minutes later, Larry and Roy decided to drive over to the school to scare Ricky and Duane. They snuck across the football field and watched as their friends tried to make a rope ladder and throw it over the tennis court light. When the rope broke, Ricky and Duane decided instead to take a light from the roof of the building that housed the school’s weight room and girls’ gymnasium. Larry and Roy went along to help them.
The gymnasium building had numerous ledges, and Ricky was able to climb to the roof easily. The other boys stayed on the ground, with Roy standing nearby while Larry and Duane went to keep a lookout. At around 11:30 pm, Ricky unbolted the light on the southeastern corner of the building, attached it to a rope, and lowered it to Roy. He then proceeded to walk across to the other side of the gymnasium’s aluminum roof, either to climb down or to unbolt a second light. A few moments later, the three boys on the ground heard breaking glass and a crash. Duane and Larry thought that Ricky had dropped a light, but Roy ran to them in a panic and said that he thought Ricky had fallen through the roof.
Duane and Larry told Roy to take the light, stash it somewhere, run back to Larry’s house, and drive home. The boys were likely concerned about Roy’s prior arrests and wanted to try to keep him out of trouble since he had expressed reluctance about the night’s activities from the beginning. While Roy hid the light in the bushes near Larry’s car, the other two boys used a tetherball pole to break into the gym. The room was pitch dark, and the boys could not find a light switch, but they could see a hole in the roof 30 feet above, and they could hear Ricky breathing. When Duane was unable to awaken Ricky, he told Larry to go and call an ambulance. Larry drove to the nearby Redding Fire Department and rang the emergency buzzer.
When Larry returned to the gymnasium with the firefighters, the lights were still off and Ricky had not woken up. Investigators D. Brownfield and Gary Hughes of the Redding Police Department arrived soon after. They noticed that Ricky’s many layers of clothing were soaked through due to the rainstorm. They also noticed something unusual about the glass that was scattered around him. The police report noted that while the inside of the glass was tinted green, the exterior side was coated with a silver-type roof adhesive.
After investigating the scene, Brownfield and Hughes took Larry outside to question him. Larry claimed that the boys had lost a football on the roof and that Ricky was trying to recover it. The officers were suspicious of the story because of the time of night and the weather, but Larry insisted that the trio played night football all the time regardless of the conditions. Brownfield and Hughes then questioned Duane, who admitted that he and Ricky had planned to “steal several floodlights.” After hearing that Duane had confessed, Larry admitted that he had invented his earlier account out of fear. Larry and Duane eventually told the police that Roy had been with them earlier in the night, and when the investigators questioned him, Roy corroborated Larry and Duane’s description of the evening’s events.
The police also later questioned Enterprise High School’s vice principal, who estimated the value of the light that Ricky had unbolted at around $35.