In Arizona, fatal attack on interracial couple heads to trial
An interracial couple was walking near a Phoenix park when authorities say a shirtless neo-Nazi began angrily yelling a racial slur and harassing the black man in the couple over dating a white woman.
Authorities say the men exchanged tense words before Travis Ricci rushed back to a home where other white supremacists were partying, grabbed a shotgun and returned in a sedan driven by an associate. Ricci leaned out the car and fired two buckshot blasts, missing the black man – the intended target – and killing his girlfriend, investigators said.
Lawyers are picking a jury to decide whether Ricci should be convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the 2009 attack, which prosecutors say was a hate crime. Opening statements are scheduled for June 6.
The case has offered several unexpected turns.
Ricci, whose defense is expected to include an argument that he’s not the man he used to be, claims his great-grandfather was a member of the French Resistance killed by Nazis in World War II.
Authorities are seeking the death penalty, saying 39-year-old Kelly Ann Jaeger’s killing was meant to further the interests of the Vinlanders Social Club, a neo-Nazi group with a reputation for violence that was later targeted in a law-enforcement crackdown.
Since prosecutors have called the attack a hate crime, they can seek up to 11 additional years in prison – above the maximum penalty – if Ricci is convicted of other charges, such as attempted murder, drive-by shooting, aggravated assault and assisting a criminal gang.