MURDER TRIAL Ricciardi to testify in own defense
The defendant's mother said police told her that her son was only a witness.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Perry S. Ricciardi II was expected to take the stand today in his own defense to talk about the death of a 12-year-old Youngstown girl.
Defense attorney Dennis A. Elisco said his client would be his last witness.
Ricciardi, 22, is accused in the Oct. 8, 2000, stabbing death of Shannon Leigh Kos. He could be sentenced to death if convicted on homicide charges.
Prosecutors spent nearly two weeks presenting their case, with 34 witnesses which included police officers and friends of Ricciardi, before resting Friday.
Ricciardi's portion of the trial started late Monday morning after Common Pleas Court Judge J. Craig Cox denied Elisco's motion to dismiss all charges.
Cox said he felt there was sufficient evidence presented in the prosecution's case to support the charges of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit rape, unlawful restraint, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.
Authorities say Ricciardi and two other men picked up Shannon somewhere in Struthers and took her to a secluded section of Mahoning Township, Lawrence County, where they attempted to rape her and her throat was slit and she was stabbed multiple times. Her body was burned sometime later.
She was discovered a few days later by a hiker.
Ricciardi, along with William Monday, 23, and David Garvey, 22, all formerly of Struthers, were arrested later that week. Monday pleaded guilty to homicide charges last year and was sentenced to life in prison; Garvey is awaiting trial.
Ricciardi's defense has contended that Monday killed Shannon while Ricciardi was present and Ricciardi was not responsible for Monday's actions.
Elisco said in his opening statements that Ricciardi went willingly to police because he feared Monday and Garvey would continue to kill others, but police at some point decided he was also responsible for Shannon's death.
Christopher Thompson of Poland, who testified for prosecutors about conversations he had with Ricciardi, Garvey and Monday about wanting to kidnap, rape and kill a young girl, was recalled to testify Monday about a conversation he had with Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Darrell T. Horton.
Thompson said Horton was speaking to Thompson and his mother, Debra, about a year ago when Debra Thompson asked if her son would also be arrested because he participated in the conversations with the men.
Horton said no, according to Thompson.
Thompson said that the trooper went on to say that police "looked at it as just a game."Horton, who was also called to testify Monday, said he was explaining the judicial system to the Thompsons, but did not tell him it was all a game.
"Mr. Thompson talked about how glad he was that he wasn't there [when the murder occurred.] I said 'If you were there you would have been charged too,'" Horton said.
Ricciardi's mother, Barbara Snow of Mercer, also testified Monday that she repeatedly told police she wanted an attorney present when they questioned her son Oct. 14, 2000.
Snow said police told her an attorney was unnecessary because they believed her son was only a witness to Shannon's death.
Ricciardi was arrested later that night after spending nearly nine hours with police. Snow said she stayed only for the first few minutes of the police interview and then asked to be excused when her son's description of the killing started.
Snow said state police Cpl. John Ryhal persuaded her to go home, saying he would return Ricciardi to her house by dinner time.
Snow said Horton called her after 10 p.m. to say her son had been arrested on homicide charges.
Prosecutors and the defense agreed to admit as evidence a sworn statement from Sharon Atty. Randall Hetrick that Snow left him a message at his office Oct. 14, 2000, seeking legal counsel for her son. Hetrick did not return Snow's call.