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Police Offer No Apology to Ricci's Widow

Police Offer No Apology to Ricci's Widow

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- City police offered no condolence Wednesday to the widow of a man wrongly suspected in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart -- a handyman with a fishy alibi and checkered past who suffered a brain hemorrhage while being held for questioning in prison.

Outside federal court, Angela Ricci, who is suing the city over its treatment of her husband, said Richard Ricci died from stress, cruelty and grief she blames on a police force eager to solve the high-profile crime.

"They tortured him to death. They interrogated him for hours without a lawyer. They put a hood over his head and leash around his waist. You could compare it to the Abu Ghraib prison," Angela Ricci said Wednesday.

The Utah Department of Corrections paid Ricci's wife $150,000 without admitting wrongdoing, saying it was cheaper than fighting her lawsuit.

She also sued city police and a lead investigator, accusing them of fingering Ricci to avoid allegations of incompetence and satisfy a public clamor for an answer to the perplexing, drawn-out case.

Ricci had worked odd jobs at the Smart house and confessed only to stealing jewelry and other items from the family. He was arrested on a parole violation for drinking beer only nine days after Elizabeth was kidnapped from her bedroom in June 2002.

Richard Ricci insisted he was at home asleep at the time of the kidnapping.

Nine months later, on March 12, 2003, Elizabeth Smart was found walking along a suburban street with a self-styled prophet, who kept her for a time at a makeshift camp in the Wasatch foothills about three miles behind the family's house.

The trial of Brian David Mitchell, who was well known on Salt Lake begging corners, has been put off amid questions about his mental competence. His wife and alleged kidnapping companion, Wanda Barzee, has been declared incompetent to stand trial.

Angela Ricci complained that police never acknowledged her husband's denials were truthful or offered an apology. Ricci spoke Wednesday after a hearing in her case against the city was canceled because her lawyer fell ill.

"He was a human being and by the time I met him a good man," she said.

Responding to her complaints, police Detective Dwayne Baird said, "His lifestyle was a continuous criminal history. It's not like he made one mistake."

Noting that Ricci's record includes shooting a police officer in the face during a botched burglary, Baird said, "She's trying to paint this guy as her prince. I just get disgusted with how she's trying to exploit this situation."

Baird said Ricci wasn't being held in prison on any city charges or any charges related to the kidnapping.

Police have admitted no wrongdoing in Ricci's untimely death, which left the investigation foundering for months until Elizabeth's younger sister suddenly recalled the intruder was another family handyman who went by the name Emmanuel, Mitchell's preaching persona.

By then the homeless couple, with Elizabeth in tow, were preparing to spend the winter in southern California. They were arrested on their return in spring, when the familiar Mitchell, who often dressed in unbleached robes, was widely known to be a suspect in the case.

The police focus on Ricci, even after he died and the girl's sister recalled Mitchell, is detailed in a critical new book called "In Plain Sight" and co-authored by one of Elizabeth's uncles, Tom Smart.

"I don't know anyone at the police department who has read it or intends to read it," Baird said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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