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LAWRENCE CO. Hearing tries to untangle legality



Published: Sat, January 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Police said the suspect never asked for an attorney.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- It will take at least another day of testimony to determine if police legally obtained statements from a Struthers man accused in the stabbing death of 12-year-old Shannon Leigh Kos.

Perry Ricciardi, 21, contends that police denied him an attorney when he was questioned about Shannon's Oct. 8, 2000, death.

Shannon died of multiple stab wounds and a slit throat in a culvert in Mahoning Township, Lawrence County. Her body was later burned before a hiker found it a few days later.

The initial hearing on the matter began Jan. 11 and continued Thursday and Friday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Testimony is expected to continue sometime next week with two other Pennsylvania State Police troopers who questioned Ricciardi before his arrest.

Defense lawyer Dennis Elisco has said that Ricciardi and his mother also will testify.

What's behind this: Ricciardi contends that he brought up the prospect of consulting an attorney several times before his formal arrest but police gave him misleading information about his right to legal counsel.

State Trooper Cpl. John Ryhal testified Friday that Ricciardi never requested an attorney during a nine-hour period they spent together Oct. 14, 2000.

"He never said he did or did not want an attorney," Ryhal said.

Another state police officer, Charles Barger, testified at the first hearing that Ricciardi asked officers in an Oct. 13 interview if he needed an attorney.

Barger said they immediately ended the police interview, advised Ricciardi of his constitutional right to an attorney and to remain silent and then unsuccessfully tried to find a public defender to speak to Ricciardi.

William Hall, the Lawrence County Jail warden, and jail counselor Jason Hilton also testified about a statement Ricciardi made to Hilton in the jail shortly after his arrest.

Ricciardi had asked to speak to a counselor because he was being threatened by other inmates, Hilton said.

"He wanted to stress to me that if they [authorities] knew what had really happened, they wouldn't be saying these things to him," Hilton said. The counselor testified that Ricciardi went on to tell him what happened the night Shannon was killed.

Hilton denied Ricciardi's contentions that the counselor agreed that their conversation would be confidential.

Written report: The jail counselor testified that he made a written report of that conversation and turned it over to the warden.

Hall said he sent the report to District Attorney Matthew Mangino. He said he put a confidential stamp on the report, meaning it was for Mangino only, not a confidential jail document as Ricciardi's attorney contended.

Hilton noted that Ricciardi didn't object when he asked to take notes during their conversation, saying that state police already recorded the same information on tape.

Ryhal said a tape-recorded statement was taken from Ricciardi on Oct. 14 just before he was arrested.

Police testified they initially considered Ricciardi a witness until he told them he was present when Shannon died and helped remove her pants before her throat was slit.

Ricciardi came to police freely Oct. 14 for questioning with his mother, Barbara Snow of Mercer, Ryhal said. Ricciardi later that day traveled to Hamilton Lake near Struthers with police to point out where a knife was discarded. He later returned to the police barracks for more questions without his mother, Ryhal said.

Ryhal testified that Ricciardi was not coerced, threatened or slapped by any officers during that time.

Ryhal said he did tell Ricciardi how he felt after the interview was over.

"I said, 'You lied to your mother. Now I have to call her and tell her.' I said it disgusted me that he took this young child from this family," Ryhal said.

Ricciardi, along with William Monday, 22, and David Garvey, 21, also of Struthers, faces charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, criminal conspiracy to commit rape and abuse of a corpse.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if the men are convicted.

cioffi@vindy.com




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