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Worthington’s Wife Demanded Divorce Before Siege, Police Say

September 23, 1991

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The man accused of killing a nurse and holding nine people hostage in a hospital maternity ward had been told by his wife hours earlier that she wanted a divorce, a police source said Monday.

Richard L. Worthington, in jail awaiting charges of aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping, is a ″control freak″ with a hair-trigger temper who felt his authority at home slipping, police and family friends said.

Around midnight Friday, Worthington stormed the Women’s Health Center at Alta View Hospital in suburban Sandy armed with a shotgun, handgun and dynamite, police said. He allegedly killed a nurse, then barricaded himself and the hostages in a suite of offices. He surrendered 18 hours later.

The catalyst for Worthington’s explosion, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, may have come earlier Friday when the 39-year-old landscaper’s wife, Karen, told him she wanted a divorce.

Asked about that report, Sandy police Capt. Robert Wright said: ″That’s my understanding.″

Attempts to reach Mrs. Worthington were unsuccessful Monday. At LDS Hospital, where her son Aaron, 16, was in extremely critical condition with head injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident four hours after his father’s arrest, spokeswoman Lynette Butler said Mrs. Worthington wasn’t taking telephone messages. A young man who answered the phone at the Worthington home said she wasn’t there and hung up.

Neighbor Karen Kadleck, a longtime friend of Mrs. Worthington, said the marriage ″was just boiling for two years.″

Most agreed the trouble started when Mrs. Worthington decided to have a tubal ligation to prevent further pregnancies after she gave birth to their eighth child in 1989.

Two other children had died shortly after birth and friends say she experienced a number of difficult pregnancies.

Worthington reportedly was looking to kill the doctor who performed that operation when he forced his way into the hospital.

Kadleck said Mrs. Worthington’s rebellion stretched the couple’s relationship to the limit.

″He’d been threatening to leave her,″ Kadleck said.

Salt Lake police Sgt. Don Bell, who negotiated with Worthington during the standoff, described him as a ″very intelligent man″ whose moods ″changed in a millisecond.″

″He’d go from A to Z very quickly,″ Bell said. ″One minute he’d be emotional, talking about one of his kids, and the next he’d be back ordering, threatening to blow people up.″

″He’s a very commanding individual, and you could tell that he liked it,″ he said.

″He was a major control freak,″ Bell said. ″He will certainly be in control when it comes to a male-female thing.″

That apparently led to a widening rift with his family. His teen-age sons began challenging his authority, said Bell, who spent several hours talking separately to Worthington and his wife.

″When the kids started growing up, they began to assert themselves,″ he said. ″They made demands. They defied him. And he didn’t know how to take it. After two or three of them grew up, the balance of power began to sway.″

Last summer, he made his two teen-age sons quit a junior football league after he allegedly attacked a coach who had pulled them from the lineup.

The team’s coach, Barry Grant, witnessed the incident.

″Rick’s short temper was the cause of it. It was the whole problem,″ he said. ″He had to be in control and when he wasn’t he got angry.″

Neighbors Jeff Parker alleged Worthington was caught stealing pine trees as part of his landscaping business.

″I’ve never had any good dealings with him,″ Parker said.

Early Sunday, Worthington suffered a minor cut on his head after what sheriff’s deputies are calling a suicide attempt when he jumped backwards off a table in his cell.

Worthington’s assault on the hospital came seven years after his father, Allen Dale Worthington, was shot to death by his wife’s former husband. The former husband testified the elder Worthington had threatened him with death several times and that he shot the man in self-defense. A jury acquitted the former husband.

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