ID Go: The Phillips’ family moves to a quiet seafront town in Maine to escape a crime wave in Indiana. But their dream home comes with a not so dreamy ex-military neighbor. A barrage of gunfire between the houses one night shatters both families forever. -Red Picket Fences, Fear Thy Neighbor (S1, E2)
On August 29, 1989, Navy veteran Richard Uffelman and his two sons opened fire from their living room window and shot and killed their neighbors Michael and Florence Phillips in Machiasport, Maine. The Phillips family moved back to Maine so they could be closer to their family and the ocean, and they wanted to escape crime in Indiana. Shortly before they moved to Maine, a murder occurred outside their home and this was it for them; they wanted to raise their son Michael in a safe environment. Richard and Anita Uffelman and their two sons were the new neighbors of the Phillips in Maine. Richard was described as an authoritarian and a believer in good order and discipline. He worked at the local post office and taught his two children to shoot guns. Initially the neighbors were good friends and their boys played together. At some point, family came to visit the Phillips for a week. The happy family reunited outside on the front lawn while they barbecued, drank some beers, and enjoyed one another’s company. Apparently Richard found a broken bottle on his lawn during the event and automatically assumed the Phillips threw the bottle on his lawn. Richard called the police to complain about the incident but there was no proof since the Phillips denied doing it. This was it for Richard; the Phillips home interfered with his view of the ocean and he was going to exact his revenge.
After this first broken bottle incident, Richard continued to call the police complaining that the neighbors were throwing bottles on his property. He would bag them up and give them to the police as evidence. The Phillips continued to deny the allegations. The police were beginning to get concerned for the Phillips. Then Richard’s wife Anita called the Phillips family and told them that Richard did not want their two sons playing with Michael anymore. Florence was confused. Soon Richard began harassing them while they were outside on their lawn. He used a megaphone and yelled at them until they went back into their house. The Phillips became fearful of him because he was quite literally bullying them. Richard upped the anti and put up some bright lights that shined directly on their home. He also shot guns in front of his home with his two boys on a regular basis which to the Phillips began feeling threatening. They called the police to ask Uffelman to stop shooting the guns because it felt like he was flexing his muscles but their was nothing illegal about shooting guns for target practice in Maine. The police couldn’t do anything. They needed evidence so Michael and Florence set up a video camera to start taping the behavior because they were not the gun types.
Tension and fear was building daily. The Phillips called the police on Richard Uffelman and Uffelman called the police on them. Now Richard wanted a protection order. It was obvious to police that Richard was getting paranoid and he had some fear that could not be alleviated by the police. Uffelman wanted to play war. Uffelman began dressing in full military fatigues with his two sons and they all carried guns and marched together as if they were in the military or a militia. The kids were impacted by Richard’s paranoia as well; as a matter of fact the whole family was brainwashed. Eventually the Phillips were afraid of Uffelman and his two sons. The Phillips left the city to get away from violence and now they were in the middle of it. They decided to file a harassment suit to get Richard Uffelman to stop. At this point, they felt trapped in their own home and they continued to videotape because it was their only option. One day Richard and his two sons armed with guns started chasing the Phillip’s son after school as if he was prey. The trio scared the entire Phillips family and they called the police again. The cops took it seriously and knew things were not going to turn out right. The Phillips got a protection order and then went on a vacation to Indiana to visit family in July 1989.
While the Phillips were visiting with family, they began viewing the videotapes. All of them were terrified at what they were witnessing but the Phillips were stuck financially. They assured their family they would be fine but in reality they were afraid Richard Uffelman would kill them when they got back. They asked their family to raise their son Michael if Uffelman killed them. They left for Maine the next day because it was their home and they had no other option. They got back to the war zone and the front lines had moved closer to home. When they got out of their vehicle, they realized that someone had dumped gasoline on their front porch. They witnessed someone running in the shadows from their home to Uffelman’s home. They called the police again but they didn’t have any proof that Uffelman had done it. They all recognized that Uffelman was raising the stakes. Unfortunately the system was at a stand still until someone made an overt act. On August 29, 1989, family visited the Phillips because they were celebrating a pregnancy in the family. The Phillips revealed to them that dealing with Uffelman was very stressful because they hadn’t caught anything of value for their harassment case. In this case, the best evidence would come too late.
Michael and Florence Phillips left the house that evening for a walk, just like every other night. This time Michael was carrying a gun as they walked in an effort to let Richard know that they were not going to take it. Then all of a sudden Richard and both of his sons began shooting at both of them from the living room of their home as they walked. The remaining family in the home were fearful that they were going to kill young Michael next. Meanwhile, Michael and Florence are struggling to move to safety in the woods to escape the barrage of gunfire. Uffelman did go to the Phillips home but turned around and left. After this near miss, the three family members in the home left to protect young Michael. They were not sure how Michael and Florence were doing at this point; they were not sure if they had been murdered or if they were still alive. Police arrived on the scene and knocked on Richard Uffelman’s door. They found him sitting at his kitchen table which was covered with handguns and firearms. The police were worried about their own safety but Uffelman surrendered without incident and he was taken into police custody. Michael and Florence Phillips both died at the scene in the woods where they attempted to escape the gunman.
Richard Uffelman was arrested for murder after the Phillips’ bodies were found. His two sons participated in the shootings as well and together they fired twenty-five rounds or so from the inside of their home. Investigators concluded the two boys were doing what they were told to do; they were victims too and as a result were not charged. Upon search of the property, police learned that Uffelman’s land was rigged with trip wire and his home was riddled with explosives. Bomb technicians were called in to remove the undetonated devices. Police also found secret passageways and tunnels. Uffelman tried to claim self-defense at his trial but the video coverage the Phillips had showed otherwise. The videotapes revealed that Uffelman went outside to check to see if his prey were dead; his murderous intent was all captured on film. Richard Uffelman was sentenced to life in prison for the first degree murders of Michael and Florence Phillips. Young Michael sued Richard Uffelman in Maine Superior Court and was awarded a wrongful death judgement for $513,320 but he has never received a dime. According to a YouTube site called Abandonment of Maine, shortly after new owners moved into the Uffelman home, the house caught on fire and burned to the ground.
Source: Fear Thy Neighbor ‘Red Picket Fences’
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Into Their Own Hands by Gary Provost (Book)
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Fear Thy Neighbor, ‘Red Picket Fences’ (ID YouTube)