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Richard Ricci's Wife Settles Claim Against State

Richard Ricci's Wife Settles Claim Against State

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The widow of a one-time "top potential suspect" in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart has agreed to a $150,000 settlement of her suit against prison officials.

Richard Ricci died of a brain hemorrhage in prison three months after Elizabeth, then 14, was kidnapped from her home on June 5, 2002. Nine months after the abduction, Elizabeth was found in the company of drifter Brian David Mitchell, 49, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, who are charged in the kidnapping.

Ricci was in maximum security on a parole violation and was facing state charges that he burglarized the Smart home and another in the neighborhood and federal charges of bank robbery.

For months, police and FBI investigators had focused attention on Ricci as a "top potential suspect" in the girl's disappearance, but he was never charged in it and maintained his innocence.

Angela Ricci filed a lawsuit in federal court against prison and Salt Lake City police officials, alleging false prosecution, libel and wrongful death. Her claim against the city remains in litigation.

"Although I appreciate this $150,000 settlement from the state, there is no way to sufficiently compensate for a life that should have been -- both Rick's and our family's," she said Wednesday. "I hope that others will take responsibility for their actions and realize that accusations are not facts, insult is not truth and arrest is not conviction."

She said no one has ever apologized for or admitted responsibility for all the pressure that was put on her husband and family.

"No one else should ever have to go through the gauntlet of suspicion, cruelty and grief that was imposed on Richard and our family," she said.

Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said the state in making the settlement admitted no responsibility for Ricci's death.

"The attorney general felt (settling) would be cheaper, more efficient than taking it to trial," Ford said. He said the settlement was negotiated by the state attorney general's and risk management offices.

The lawsuit said Ricci had a history of hypertension when imprisoned and should have been on medication during his last confinement. It alleged that prison's inattention to Ricci's condition was negligent and caused Ricci's "wrongful and premature death."

Ford said Ricci was in maximum security for his own protection from other inmates.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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