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Police Formally Clear Ricci; Wife Still Wants Apology

Police Formally Clear Ricci; Wife Still Wants Apology

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Police formally cleared a man they once considered a top potential suspect in Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping -- but did not offer the apology the man's widow had sought.

"I am here to say that we do not believe that Richard Ricci was involved in this kidnapping," Police Chief Rick Dinse said Thursday.

For months, police focused attention on Ricci, who died of a brain hemorrhage in jail three months after then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped.

Angela Ricci, who insisted her 48-year-old husband was sleeping beside her the night of Elizabeth's disappearance, wanted police to acknowledge they were wrong and issue a public apology.

"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 before Dinse's statement. "That would give me some peace."

Earlier Thursday, Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, offered sympathy.

"Obviously it was not Richard. This was one thing that he was not responsible for," Ed Smart said. "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 a 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," she said. "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.

There is no indication the transient found with Elizabeth, Brian Mitchell, knew Ricci. The 15-year-old girl was returned to her family Wednesday.

Ed Smart had consistently said he believed Ricci was somehow involved in the girl's disapparance.

Ricci received a white Jeep from Ed Smart for doing 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 nine days.

Police said Ricci never adequately explained the additional mileage or mud 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.

But the only witness to the abduction, Elizabeth's younger sister Mary Katherine, said Ricci was not the man in the bedroom that night.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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