RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) – A Richmond rehabilitation program is under fire after a recent deadly stabbing at one of its halfway houses. A former member of REAL LIFE and the family of that stabbing victim told 8News the program incites violence and ignores drug use.
Robert Pulling, a member of the REAL LIFE rehabilitation program, was brutally stabbed to death in a halfway house on Melbourne Street two weekends ago. Richmond Police later arrested Kevin Rice on charges of failing to appear in court and on robbery charges in relation to the stabbing.
Pulling’s family is heartbroken, and still wants answers from the organization.
Jennifer Arcebal and her boyfriend, Wesley Tanner, believe the gruesome stabbing that killed Pulling would’ve never happened if the organization followed policy.
“I feel like there would’ve been a lot more clarity in Kevin’s head and it probably would not have happened,” Arcebal said.
Tanner is a former member of REAL LIFE and went straight to a halfway house after getting out of jail. However, when got there, he said the program was nothing like he thought it would be.
“The drug use in the houses was absolutely insane,” he said.
Arcebal said she could see the drug use from the street.
“I would pull up to go pick up Wesley and you could see two guys through the window just standing up nodding off, so it was obvious they were on drugs,” she described.
After not getting through to the program’s director and founder, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, over the phone last week to ask about drug use in the houses, 8News went to the program’s office today on 25th Street. Someone came to the door, said the 8News crew could come in, but then someone else in the back of the building yelled to close the door. The door was closed in the crew’s face.
Arcebal is a former member of a different rehab program and said REAL LIFE isn’t non-profit like it’s advertised.
“They’re not a free program. They rush people in and they rush them straight into jobs, which is like really not good for people who are trying to get clean,” she said.
In a phone interview on Monday, Tanner said as a member, he and others were required to pay nearly $200 a week to be in the house and get rehab.
“If you don’t pay, you get kicked out,” he said.
Both Tanner and Arcebal said the houses are placed in high crime areas, which they said isn’t a good environment to help addicts get clean in.
“People are like prostituting around the corner, they’re using drugs on the streets,” Arcebal said.
They, like Pulling’s family, hope something is done to hold the organization accountable.
“You’re pushing people you know are in active addiction, you know, into just so much pressure, so much pressure,” Arcebal told 8News. “You’re yelling at them all day, you’re putting them in a house in the ghetto and not even caring if they’ve relapsed.”
“That halfway house is accountable for my brother’s murder,” said Denise Harris, sister of Robert Pulling.
Rice, the suspect charged with first-degree murder among other things in the stabbing of Pulling, will face a grand jury in December.