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Defendant's Voice : Tape Describes Killing of Pizza Deliveryman

January 29, 1987|PATRICIA KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

A Pasadena Superior Court jury Wednesday heard a police tape recording on which a South Carolina woman admitted watching her boyfriend kill a Domino's Pizza deliveryman at a motel but said she did not participate in the actual murder.

Ruby Carolyn Padgett, 21, made the statements during more than four hours of tape-recorded interviews with Glendale police after she and Mitchell Carleton Sims were arrested in Las Vegas on Christmas Day, 1985.

Prosecutor Terry A. Green introduced the tapes as evidence in Padgett's jury trial before Judge Jack B. Tso on one count of first-degree murder in the strangulation-drowning death of John Steven Harrigan on Dec. 9, 1985 at the Regalodge Motel in Glendale.

Green has said Padgett is lying about her role in the murder because it would have been impossible for Sims alone to bind and gag Harrigan, then carry him into the water-filled bathtub of the motel room Sims and Padgett shared.

In her statement, Padgett said that Sims kneed the 21-year-old deliveryman as he entered the room and that Harrigan immediately pulled $30 from his pocket and gave it to Sims, who then ordered then ordered the victim to get on the floor.

She decribed Harrigan as "scared" and said he asked them, "Are you going to shoot me, are you going to blow me away?" Padgett said Sims had a gun but did not want to use it because the noise would attract attention. Instead, Sims bound and gagged Harrigan, put a pillowcase over his head and forced him into the tub that Sims had filled with water, she said.

Sims held Harrigan's head under the water for about a minute while the deliveryman arched his body, Padgett said. "You know, there is not much you can do if you got your hands and everything tied behind your back," she told police.

In response to a question from a Glendale investigator as heard on the tapes, Padgett denied holding Harrigan's head under water. Asked whether she held his feet, only a laugh was heard on the tape.

Padgett is also charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of armed robbery in a Dec. 9 attack on two of Harrigan's co-workers, Kory Spiroff and Edmund Sicam.

Sims, 26, a former Domino's employee in South Carolina, is to be tried separately on the same charges beginning Feb. 5.

Robbers Described as Calm

In testimony this week, Spiroff and Sicam said Padgett and Sims were calm and made no attempt to hide their faces during a robbery at the pizzeria less than an hour after Harrigan's killing.

Spiroff testified that he told the couple that another employee would soon be returning from a delivery. Sims replied, "No, I don't think so," chuckled and removed his sweater to reveal a Domino's uniform T-shirt with the name tag "John," Spiroff said.

Spiroff testified that Padgett, coached by Sims, took $2,000 out of the restaurant's cash register, then wiped away her fingerprints. Spiroff and Sicam said Padgett held a gun and a knife on them while Sims briefly left the room.

Richard Wagner, an off-duty Domino's employee, testified earlier this week that he went to the restaurant during the holdup to give Spiroff some furniture. Wagner testified that he realized something was wrong because Spiroff treated him like a stranger.

Playing along, Wagner said he ordered a pizza and noticed that Spiroff did not give him the half-price employee discount.

Calls Store Manager

Wagner said he thought Sims was an employee from another Domino's outlet until he noticed that Sims was smoking a cigarette, a violation of company policy. Wagner testified that his suspicions were further aroused when Sims, who was wearing the name tag that said John, answered the phone, "Domino's Pizza. Mitch. Can I help you?"

After leaving the restaurant, Wagner testified, he called his store manager from a pay phone and the store manager called police.

Meanwhile, Spiroff and Sicam testified, Padgett produced a rope that Sims used to tie Sicam and Spiroff in a walk-in cooler, bound so they would strangle unless they stood on their toes. Told of Wagner's suspicions, police went to the pizzeria and cut them down within minutes.

But, under questioning by Padgett's attorney, Rayford Fountain, Spiroff and Sicam said Padgett was in another room and could not see when Sims tied the employees. They said Padgett did not threaten them.

Because of special-circumstance allegations that Harrigan was killed during a robbery and that his assailants lay in wait for him, Padgett could be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted.

Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty because of her age and lack of criminal record. They are seeking the death penalty for Sims, however, Green said.

Face Charges in South Carolina

After their trials, Sims and Padgett will be returned to South Carolina to face charges in the killing of two Domino's employees in the Charleston suburb of Hanahan six days before Harrigan's murder. In her statement to Glendale police, Padgett denied any involvement with the South Carolina murders.

Sims faces first-degree murder charges in the South Carolina killings and Padgett is charged as an accessory after the fact. South Carolina authorities also are seeking the death penalty against Sims.

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