Episode 131: Dave Richter – Johnston Gang, Kiddie Gang Murders

Retired agent Dave Richter served in the FBI for more than 33 years, ten as a support employee and 23 as a special agent. During most of his agent career, he worked violent crime, general criminal, and white-collar crime matters out of the Philadelphia Division’s Newton Square Resident Agency. In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, he reviews his investigation of the Johnston Gang, a family-based robbery, and burglary ring that was responsible for millions of dollars of thefts and the murders of six witnesses. The gang operated for more than 20 years in the rural areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New York, stealing everything they could get their hands on, especially farm machinery. Dave Richter believes that the investigation was a success and the Johnston brothers were brought to justice due to the combined efforts of the federal, state, county, and local law enforcement agencies assigned. The case inspired the feature film At Close Range which starred Sean Penn and Christopher Walken, a number of TV true crime shows, and a book written by a former local reporter. Currently, Dave Richter is a principal in the private investigative agency, Cloud, Feehry & Richter, Inc.

Special Agent (Retired)

David Richter

4/10/1972 – 1/1/1996









“We told him, don’t tell your father. But he showed Bruce Sr. the subpoena, and that night Jimmy Johnston and the other boys disappeared.”

The following are links to articles about the Johnston Gang and the crimes they committed, to include murder:

New York Times – 3/6/1979:  Brothers Hearing Opens in 6 Pennsylvania Killings

Daily Times – 11/19/1980: Chester County’s infamous Johnston Gang revisited

People Magazine – 2/25/1980:  For the Johnston Family, Police Say, Crime Was a Way of Life—and Then Death

Washington Post – 8/21/1999: ‘Tired’ Escapee Gives Up The Fight

Did You Know Facts:  The Kiddie Gang: The True Crime Story Behind the Film ‘At Close Range’

Dave Richter believes that the success of the Johnston Gang case was due to the investigative partnerships developed between the FBI, PA State Police, county, and local police departments. Here’s a photo from an article in the Inquirer Magazine of the investigators who worked on the case (Dave’s on the far right).















A feature film – At Close Range (1986) – was made based on the Johnston Gang. You can watch the movie trailer here.












Former Chester County investigative reporter Bruce Mowday’s wrote this true crime book about the Johnston Gang.  Members Ancell Hamm , Norman Johnston , David Johnston , and Bruce Johnston Sr. are featured on the cover. Dave Richter provided insights and photos.


















Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by writing crime fiction and hosting FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast available for free subscription on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and other popular podcast apps. Her nonfiction book FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives and her FBI corruption squad police procedurals featuring Special Agent Kari Wheeler are available wherever books are sold.


  1. Phil PiorkowskiAugust 31, 2018

    On the cover of the book Jailing The Johnston Gang is Ancell Hamm , Norman Johnston , David Johnston , and Bruce Johnston Sr.

    1. Jerri WilliamsAugust 31, 2018

      Thank you. I didn’t know who the 4th person was.

  2. Bruce MowdayAugust 30, 2018

    Jerri, great job with the interview with Dave Richter. Dave is an excellent person and fine law enforcement officer. He and the other law enforcement officers greatly helped me with my book on the Johnston Gang.

    1. Jerri WilliamsAugust 30, 2018

      Thanks Bruce. Could you tell us who are the men featured on the cover of your book?

  3. Trish VickAugust 30, 2018


    No – the movie ‘At Close Range’ is WONDERFUL! It’s not cheesy at all (I get how the trailer looks that way, tho)! One of the best performances of Sean Penn’s career, and add to that Christopher Walken, and you’ve got GOLD! A must watch. You gotta watch it! Loving your podcast, btw 🙂

    1. Jerri WilliamsAugust 30, 2018

      Really? Now, I have to watch it. I’ll check it out this weekend. Thanks for letting me know.


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