The defendant said he feared that the others would kill his family if he didn't participate.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A soft-spoken Perry S. Ricciardi II spent nearly five hours recounting the events surrounding the death of a 12-year-old Youngstown girl and his relationship with the two other men accused in her murder.
The 22-year-old former Struthers man was expected to continue his testimony today under direct questioning from his attorney Dennis A. Elisco.
Ricciardi, along with William Monday, 23, and David Garvey, 22, both formerly of Struthers, were charged in the Oct. 8, 2000, death of Shannon Leigh Kos of East Midlothian Boulevard.
Her body was found in a culvert off East River Road in Lawrence County with multiple stab wounds and a slit throat. Her body also had been burned.
Monday pleaded guilty to homicide charges last year and is serving a life sentence in prison; Garvey is awaiting trial. Ricciardi could face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying.
But Ricciardi contends he initially didn't take his friends seriously when they suggested raping and killing Shannon and then feared for his life and the lives of his family members after the slaying.
Ricciardi said he unbuttoned Shannon's jeans when instructed by the others, but then pulled away and refused to rape her as Garvey pulled down her pants.
Ricciardi added that he ran away as Garvey indicated he would rape Shannon.
What he contends
Ricciardi said the men called him back to the murder scene several times as they held Shannon by knife point.
He said he thought about going for help.
"I was too scared. My thought process was telling me that before I could go anywhere of any value [for help], they could be at my house and kill my family," Ricciardi said. Ricciardi was engaged and had a 4-month-old daughter at the time of the killing.
Ricciardi said that before the events in the culvert, he didn't believe Monday was capable of murder.
Before reaching the culvert, Ricciardi said, Monday approached him about raping and killing Shannon because no one knew her whereabouts.
Ricciardi said he just laughed.
"I never took him seriously," Ricciardi said.
Ricciardi said he never intended to harm Shannon that night. It was his plan to get high on marijuana, relax and then go home, he said.
Garvey and Monday picked up Ricciardi at his Creed Street home at about 5 p.m. and Shannon was in the back seat of Monday's car eating nacho chips. Ricciardi said he was told the chips were in exchange for oral sex that Shannon was to give Garvey later.
The four drove around before ending up in a section of Lawrence County they called "zombie land," where they would often party.
Monday told Ricciardi it would be the perfect time to rape and kill Shannon -- the men often talked about wanting to rape and kill a girl while partying, he said. Ricciardi said he laughed at Monday.
At about 7:15 p.m. Shannon asked to go home, but Monday refused, Ricciardi said.
"She said she was under house arrest and could get them in trouble if they didn't take her home," Ricciardi said. "[Monday] said if she told the police, he would gut her like a fish."
Ricciardi said the comment was a reference to a line in the movie "Scream."
Ricciardi said Monday eventually coaxed Shannon out of the car and told her they must walk to a culvert down below where they were parked.
"Billy and Shannon were arm and arm. It looked like she was sort of skipping," Ricciardi said.
But once they got to the culvert, things turned bad, he said.
Shannon appeared scared and asked Ricciardi if Monday would really "gut her like a fish."
"I said, 'No. Billy might seem scary, but he's really a big teddy bear,'" Ricciardi said.
But when Monday returned from talking privately with Garvey, he grabbed Shannon from behind and held a knife to her throat, Ricciardi said.
"His face changed," Ricciardi said of Monday. "It's a look I've never seen before. It scared me. His eyes bugged out."
Ricciardi said at that point he believed he was outnumbered by Monday and Garvey but still didn't want to harm Shannon. He said he walked out of the culvert several times, each time being called back by Monday before Shannon's throat was eventually slit by Monday.
"I gagged when I heard her say, 'Oh God' [just before her throat was slit]. I was on my knees. I was praying God wouldn't let this happen," Ricciardi said.
Ricciardi said that over the next few days he kept in close contact with Monday and Garvey to ensure that they wouldn't harm his family.
Ricciardi also recounted conversations he had with police and how he showed them where the knife was discarded in Hamilton Lake in Struthers.
Ricciardi is expected to finish his testimony today, and closing arguments are expected Thursday.