Suspect had no lawyer at questioning, mom says
The suspect's mother said police initially told her that her son was only a witness.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Barbara Snow said she repeatedly told police that she wanted an attorney present when they questioned her son, Perry Ricciardi II.
Snow, however, testified Wednesday that police told her that an attorney was unnecessary because they believed her son was only a witness in the Oct. 8, 2000, stabbing death of 12-year-old Shannon Leigh Kos of Youngstown.
Police "said the district attorney decided not to supply a public defender because Perry was not in any trouble and they just wanted to question him," Snow said.
But on Oct. 14, 2000, police arrested Ricciardi, 21, of Struthers, and charged him, along with David Garvey, 21, and William Monday, 22, also of Struthers, with criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, criminal conspiracy to commit rape and abuse of a corpse.
Ricciardi contends that police illegally obtained statements from him that day because he was refused an attorney during questioning. Defense attorney Dennis A. Elisco wants a judge to suppress all statements Ricciardi made to police and later to a jail counselor.
Police have testified that Ricciardi never asked for an attorney.
Ricciardi is expected to testify when the hearing continues at 1:30 p.m. next Thursday in common pleas court.
Police questioning: Police have testified that they initially questioned Ricciardi because they believed he bought a knife from Monday.
During that first set of questions Oct. 13, 2000, at the Struthers Police Department, Ricciardi told them that he was present when Shannon died, police said.
Police stopped the interview and advised Ricciardi of his constitutional rights. Ricciardi then asked if he needed an attorney, police said.
Police unsuccessfully tried to contact a public defender. They later let Ricciardi leave, but told him he should return the next day for more questions.
Snow testified a disheveled Ricciardi appeared at her Mercer County home at about 2:30 a.m. Oct. 14, sometime after police let him go.
"When he arrived he was pretty pitiful. He was crying and stumbling over words. It appeared he was very afraid and confused and not sure what to do. He sat at my feet on the floor and called me mommy," said Snow, who works as a psychiatric social worker for the Human Service Center in New Castle.
Later that morning, a Saturday, she tried to call the Lawrence County Courthouse for a public defender, but it was closed, she said. Snow said she then contacted state police Cpl. John Ryhal, who had given her son his business card the night before, and told him that her son wanted to cooperate, but only with an attorney present.
Ryhal advised her to contact one from the telephone book, she said. Snow said she left a message for a Sharon attorney that went unanswered. Snow said she and her son later agreed to go to state police barracks for questioning when Ryhal promised to find a public defender for her son.
No lawyer there: There was no public defender at the state police barracks when they arrived about 11:15 a.m., she said. Police immediately started reading Ricciardi his constitutional rights to an attorney and to remain silent during questioning, Snow said.
"I asked why they were reading him his rights if he wasn't being charged and [Cpl. Raymond] Melder said, 'This is a formality,'" Snow said. Melder, who testified earlier in the day, denied making that statement.
They were both asked to sign a paper stating they understood the rights, and Snow said she initially refused.
Melder "said Perry was not charged with a crime. He was a witness. He also said Perry is not a minor and I was not being asked to give permission for them to speak to him. That I was only a witness" to Ricciardi's signing the paper, she said.
Ryhal later persuaded her to go home without her son, Snow said. "He said he would look after my boy and he would help us. He said he would bring Perry home for dinner," she said.
Became a suspect: By 8 p.m. that night Snow became concerned when her son hadn't returned to her home and telephoned Ryhal for information.
Ryhal had previously testified that by 7:30 p.m. they decided that Ricciardi was a suspect and persuaded him to give a recorded statement.
Snow said Melder called her about 8:30 p.m. and said her son had implicated himself in Shannon's death and would not be home.