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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The widow of the former potential top suspect in Elizabeth Smart's disappearance wants Salt Lake City police to publicly apologize and formally clear her husband's name.
For months, police focused attention on Richard Ricci, a man who died of a brain hemorrhage in a jail cell three months after the then-14-year-old girl was kidnapped. Now his wife, Angela Ricci, wants police to acknowledge they were wrong.
"I would like to hear from (police) that Richard Ricci had nothing to do with the abduction of Elizabeth Smart, as he proclaimed all along," Angela Ricci said Thursday, looking tired from little sleep and hours of non-stop interviews. "That would give me some peace."
Ricci will come closer to public exoneration when charges are filed against those who took the girl, said Nancy Pomeroy, a Ricci family spokesman.
"Police have not released him as a person of interest and that is what the family would like to see," Pomeroy said. "We're just looking for an apology."
At a news conference Thursday, Ed Smart also said Ricci should be cleared. "Obviously it was not Richard. This was one thing that he was not responsible for. Angela, I know you went through a lot.
I hope this gives you the peace to know that he was not the one."
Although Ricci was never formally charged, he remained the top potential suspect even after his death in jail, where he was being held on an unrelated parole violation.
Angela Ricci feels the intense police scrutiny robbed her of the final moments with her husband. "We didn't get to share a moment alone. He was in shackles, then he was in a coma. His last moments alive I didn't get to say goodbye in my own private way."
Ricci always denied involvement in Elizabeth's disappearance. He was fingered by police early in the investigation partly because he was a career criminal who had worked in the Smarts' home and had a business relationship with Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father.
There is no indication that the transient found with Elizabeth, Brian Mitchell -- also known as "Emmanuel" -- knew Ricci.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson believes the same. "What the mayor said last night is that he knows of no evidence that would link Mr. Mitchell to Mr. Ricci," Anderson spokesman Josh Ewing said Thursday.
Police focused intensely on Ricci because of several odd details that became known at the beginning of the investigation. Ed Smart also consistently said he believed Ricci was somehow involved.
Ricci had purchased a white Jeep from Ed Smart in exchange for handyman work at the Smart home. After Elizabeth disappeared, Neth Moul, Ricci's mechanic, told The Associated Press that Ricci put about 1,000 miles on the car's odometer in a nine-day period surrounding her disappearance.
Police said Ricci never adequately explained the additional mileage or mud that had caked on the car.
In addition, because Ricci had worked in the Smart house, he was thought to know the home's interior. Elizabeth's alleged kidnapper entered through a kitchen window, told her to get her shoes and left with her, police said.
However, the only witness to the abduction, Elizabeth's younger sister Mary Katherine, said Ricci was not the man in the bedroom that night.
Other details linked Ricci to stealthy nighttime thefts. Court documents show Ricci admitted to an earlier theft from the Smart home and a night burglary of a neighbor's home around the same time. Prosecutors say he stole $3,500 worth of items from the Smarts on June 6, 2001. A search of Ricci's trailer turned up jewelry, a perfume bottle and a wine glass filled with sea shells that belonged to the Smarts, according to state court charging documents.
Ricci pleaded innocent to those charges. Federal authorities also charged him with robbing a bank with two others in November 2001. Federal prosecutors dropped the bank robbery charges against Ricci following his death.
Angela Ricci has insisted her husband was sleeping beside her on the night of Elizabeth's disappearance.
Police earlier discredited that, but refused to say what evidence they had to refute it.
Throughout the last nine months, Angela Ricci has offered sympathy to the Smart family while maintaining that her late husband was uninvolved.
"I'm just hurt he had to go through what he went through at the end," Ricci said. "And he was so far from the type who would abduct children."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)