SHANNON KOS KILLING Hearing focuses on whether suspect was denied an attorney
The suspect's attorney wants all statements he made to police to be thrown out.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- As Perry Ricciardi's story changed, so did his role in the investigation of 12-year-old Shannon Kos' death, a police investigator said.
Ricciardi, 21, of Struthers, maintains that police illegally obtained statements from him while investigating the death of the Youngstown girl, whose body was found in an abandoned culvert in Mahoning Township, Lawrence County, in October 2000.
Investigators testified they only wanted to speak to Ricciardi about a knife he supposedly bought from another man suspected in Shannon's death. During questioning, Ricciardi revealed he was there when she died, they said.
Ricciardi's lawyer Dennis Elisco contends that his client was denied an attorney during questioning and wants Judge Dominick Motto of common pleas court to throw out all statements he made to police.
"He expressed his right to obtain an attorney and should have been free to leave, but they kept him there for further interrogation," Elisco said after a hearing Thursday. Additional testimony is being taken today.
The hearing started Jan. 11 and was continued to this week.
Troopers' testimony: Charles A. Barger, a Pennsylvania State Police trooper, testified at the first hearing that Ricciardi asked him three separate times if he needed an attorney -- twice on the telephone when police asked him to come in for questioning and a third time during questioning in the late hours of Oct. 13 or early hours of Oct. 14 at the Struthers Police Department.
Barger said he initially told Ricciardi he needed an attorney only if he was present when Shannon died.
Cpl. John Ryhal, another state trooper, testified Thursday that shortly after Ricciardi asked the third time if he needed an attorney, Ryhal attempted to contact one.
Ryhal said he was unsuccessful in finding a public defender and told Ricciardi to contact an attorney on his own.
"There was a big phone book sitting there and I said, 'There are pages of attorneys. I recommend first thing in the morning you get on the telephone and call one,'" he said.
Ricciardi, who was not under arrest, was later taken home by state police.
Ryhal testified that Ricciardi came to the state police barracks in New Castle with his mother the next day, a Saturday, without an attorney.
Court documents filed by Ricciardi's attorney contend that Ricciardi's mother told police, "We want an attorney." She tried to contact an attorney in Sharon, Pa., before going to the police barracks, but was unsuccessful, court records say.
Elisco said the police told Ricciardi and his mother that police merely wanted his cooperation and that he was not going to be charged.
Not a suspect: Ryhal testified that Ricciardi wasn't a suspect and was free to leave at any time before they read him his constitutional rights to silence and legal representation later that night.
They even took Ricciardi to Hamilton Lake near Struthers to help search for a knife they believed was used to kill Shannon, Ryhal said.
"He was never handcuffed or restricted. He did at one point say he hoped his helping me would set Shannon's soul free, and I told him only the truth would set Shannon's soul free," Ryhal said.
Status changed: Ricciardi's story began to change in a later interview and then police decided to take him into custody, Ryhal said.
"The information coming from Mr. Ricciardi went from a person who just happened to be there, to a person who was involved ... a participant," he said.
Ricciardi, along with William Monday, 22, and David Garvey, 21, face charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, criminal conspiracy to commit rape and abuse of a corpse.
Police said the men picked up Shannon at a coin-operated laundry near her Midlothian Boulevard home Oct. 8 and took her to Mahoning Township where they decided to rape and kill her.