Near daybreak Thursday, Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon prepares to assist in the recovery effort for a second body swept into the Swift River in Mexico on Monday evening. The orange and white barricades at the tree behind him mark where a pickup truck with the body of  61-year-old Judy Richards was found Wednesday after flood waters had subsided. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

Judy Richards was a doting grandmother who “enjoyed the little things,” like planting flowers in her garden. Her granddaughter, Ciara Cooper, had recently graduated from high school.

“You knew exactly what she was thinking,” said Cheryl Leet, Richards’ step-sister, who remembered Cooper for her outgoing personality.

Judy Richards Courtesy of Cheryl Leet

Richards, 61,  and Cooper, 20, were identified Thursday as the two women whose bodies have been recovered from the site at the Swift River in Mexico where the truck they were in was overtaken by water as they tried to cross a bridge during Monday’s wind and rainstorm.

“It was just a quirk and just sad,” said Leet, of Lewiston, who learned what happened when one of Richards’ sisters called her Tuesday and told her that the reports she had seen in the news about a truck swept away by flood waters were about her step-sister’s truck.

“She was a wonderful person,” Leet said. “If she could help somebody she did, even if it took away from her.”



Richards was driving a red Nissan Titan around 4:21 p.m. Monday when Mexico police say she drove past barricades onto a flooded Carlton Avenue adjacent to the Mexico-Rumford Bridge, also known as the Red Bridge. The truck was quickly caught in deep and rapidly moving water, Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon said in a statement.

Ciara Cooper Courtesy of Cheryl Leet

Two passengers in the truck, 37-year-old Charlie Young, of Mexico and 53-year-old Michael Skillen, of Rumford, escaped and were rescued by Rumford and Mexico fire personnel. Both suffered hypothermia, were treated and released at Rumford Hospital and are expected to make a full recovery, Hodsdon said.

Leet didn’t know how the four knew each other, but she believes the two men were friends of Richards’ that she was bringing home after they had been at her house.

“I don’t think if she had known how bad it was that she would have tried to cross,” Leet said. She wonders if Richards was trying to turn around when the truck got swept up.

The two met as teenagers when Leet’s mother started dating Richards’ father. Their parents never married but lived together for a long time, Leet said.

She said Richards was raising two grandchildren – Cooper and a teenage boy who she believes is Cooper’s cousin – on her own. “She loved the kids,” Leet said, adding that having them help her plant flowers in her garden was one of her favorite things.


“She enjoyed the little things like that,” she said.

Police identified Richards as Gertrude Richards on Thursday, but Leet said she hated that first name and always went by Judy. Richards also went by Judy on Facebook, where she described herself saying, “I’m loving-caring-mommy-Mimi.”

Leet said Richards had raised Cooper since she was a baby and they still lived together. She said Cooper, whom she didn’t know as well, had recently graduated high school and that it took her a little longer to graduate because she had learning disabilities. “But you wouldn’t have known it talking to her,” Leet said. “She was a normal kid.”


Police and rescue personnel had been searching for the two women since Monday evening but hadn’t been unable to locate them due to heavy rain, wind and dangerous rising water. Mexico police and firefighters were assisted Tuesday by multiple agencies, including the Maine Warden Service, Maine State Police and Mexico town crews, and later in the week were joined by the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and HB Fleming Construction.

Hodsdon said searchers struggled against “very severe and dangerous” rising waters flooding the area during the initial search Monday and again Tuesday.


The truck was finally located early Wednesday morning about 30 feet from the bridge where it was last seen and Richards’ body was found inside.

Cooper’s body was found Thursday about 100 yards from the bridge, after the river had receded, exposing the debris left by the flooding, Hodsdon said.

He said both women are believed to have died by drowning, though the Office of Chief Medical Examiner will make a final determination.

“This is an unfortunate and tragic incident that shocked our entire community,” Hodsdon said in his statement.

The two women are among four people whose deaths were related to the storm that hit Maine on Monday causing extensive flooding and power outages across large parts of the state.

William Tanner, a 77-year-old Fairfield man, died while trying to move a tree that was knocked down, and Troy Olson, 40, of Windham was killed by falling debris as he tried to clear a downed tree off his roof.

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