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Neighbor of Former Smart Suspect Sues City

Neighbor of Former Smart Suspect Sues City

Posted - Oct. 9, 2003 at 9:26 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The neighbor of a man once suspected in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping has sued the city, claiming he was subjected to "Gestapo-style interviews and interrogations."

Pete Romero, an ex-convict on parole, lived next door to Richard Ricci, whom police called a "top potential suspect" after Elizabeth Smart was taken at knifepoint from her bedroom on June 5, 2002. She was found March 12 with two transients who have been charged with her kidnapping.

Ricci, a career criminal who died in August of a cerebral hemorrhage while in prison on a parole violation, was never charged in the Smart case.

Romero's suit claims he was suspected of being an accomplice of Ricci and he was "baselessly and maliciously investigated and interrogated."

While interrogating Ricci, "investigators knowingly used intimidation, physical force, threats of physical force" to persuade Romero into revealing knowledge about the abduction that he did not have, the suit claims.

It also alleges police leaked false information about Romero, who was forced to wear an ankle monitor for 51/2 months.

The suit claims that as a result of these actions, Romero's wife left him and his son, in fear of the police and his own safety, dropped out of high school and moved away.

The suit alleges Romero's rights were violated and it seeks unspecified damages. Steven Allred, a city attorney, declined comment Thursday, saying the city has not yet been served with the suit.

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

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