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He went to a recovery house to get his life back. The house manager allegedly killed him.

He went to a recovery house to get his life back. The house manager allegedly killed him.
Posted at 3:16 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 04:25:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Every summer, Chelchasity Pulling's dad Robert took her and her brother, Rocco, to the amusement park.

"He loved it a lot," Chelchasity said about her dad.

Robert seemed to like it as much as the kids. It reminded him of when he was a young boy growing up in Henrico.

Chelchasity cherishes those memories that now seem like a lifetime ago.

"This is the house where my dad was murdered at," Chelchasity said as she pointed to a house in Richmond's Whitcomb neighborhood.

When Chelchasity reconnected with the single father who raised her after two years of radio silence, he lived in that house.

"He wanted to get back on track with his life. He wanted to amend relationships that had been broken," Chelchasity said.

Robert Pulling suffered from schizophrenia and a court convicted him of possession of a firearm after being involuntarily committed and trespassing. His family said he had stopped taking his medicine.

"He believed he was in some other world," Chelchasity said.

As part of a sentencing agreement, Pulling went to live at a recovery house run by the Real Life program, even though his family claims he did not have a substance abuse problem.

"He got a good job, got his license back and was about to move out," Chelchasity said.

Everything seemed to be going well, until November 13 of last year.

"I have anxiety about it, knowing this is the place where my dad was killed at," Chelchasity said.

Chelchasity's father was found inside the home with his hands, feet and neck tied up, with multiple stab wounds to his chest, according to a police affidavit.

The suspect? The house manager, Kevin Rice, who police said killed Pulling and tried to steal his bank card.

"I don't think he belonged here, I really don't," Chelchasity said.

Now Chelchasity and Rocco have filed a civil lawsuit against Rice and Real Life.

"There is no one overseeing the behavior of the participants, and the house managers and the case managers, and there needs to be more oversight of all aspects of the program," Noel Brooks, an attorney at Brooks and Baez who is representing the siblings, said.

The suit alleges Real Life failed to protect their residents when they accepted Rice into the program and promoted him to house manager within a month.

This, despite his lengthy criminal history, which included raping a 13-year-old girl, failure to register as a sex offender twice, possession of a firearm by a violent felon, eluding police, and grand larceny.

"The kind of person I believe should have been in charge is someone who has changed their life around for the good," Chelchasity said.

Judge Jacqueline McLenney allowed Rice to enter Real Life as part of a bond agreement in April of 2021, something the Commonwealth Attorney's office did not agree with and even appealed.

But, the judge still approved the bond.

A little over a month later, the Deputy Director for Real Life, Jessica Jones, told the court Rice had been promoted to the house manager and wrote "we are so very proud of Kevin's success and know that he will continue to excel."

And yet, according to the lawsuit, five months later, another resident called a case manager for Real Life, Thomas Young, to report Rice was using drugs, acting violently and threatening to kill Pulling.

"From what we gather no action was taken, including but not limited to, contacting the police immediately," Brooks said.

Pulling was killed that very night.

Brooks said the case opened his eyes to the recovery house industry, which has exploded in growth in recent years but has little state oversight.

"People hear about the opioid crisis, people hear about different programs that are designed to address that crisis, but I think if people knew the details of these programs and see these programs are often times receiving grants from local government, state government, federal government without receiving oversight of the grants," Brooks said. "I think if it were discovered people would be aghast."

People like Chelchasity said they aren't convinced that a program like Real Life is the answer to the crisis.

"I don't want any other family to go through what me and my brother are going through," Chelchasity said.

CBS 6 Problem Solvers reached out to Real Life but were told they could not comment due to the pending litigation.

In the coming weeks, CBS6 will be taking a deeper look into how these houses are regulated, if at all, what one county is doing to try to ensure recovery house residents and the community are safe and the good they do for those in recovery.

If you have a story to share about recovery houses in Virginia, please contact Melissa Hipolit at mhipolit@wtvr.com