Linda Ricchio, convicted in the so-called "Fatal Attraction" killing of her estranged lover, was sentenced Monday to 27 years to life in prison after she turned to the victim's family and claimed she wasn't guilty of murder.
Asked if she had any comment before sentencing, Ricchio said: "This is absurd." Then, looking first to television cameras and then the family of Ronald Ruse Jr. sitting in the jammed courtroom audience, she said: "My heart goes out to the Ruse family . . . (but) to the court and to the public, I did not murder Ron Ruse."
Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Miller, however, characterized Ricchio's killing of Ruse as a "psychodrama" and accused the woman of writing, in letters she had sent to the Ruse family, an "illogical and false account of the event."
Shot Ex-Lover Twice
Miller termed the evidence against Ricchio overwhelming.
Ricchio, 27, shot and killed Ruse in December, 1987, when she stood on the second-floor landing of an apartment in Carlsbad, which she rented next door to Ruse and without his knowledge, and shot him twice as he returned to his own apartment after a day at work as an automobile mechanic.
Ricchio testified in her own defense during her trial in Vista that she had planned to shoot herself in Ruse's view, thereby passing on the pain of her suicide to her lover of seven years who had spurned her several months earlier.
Ricchio said that Ruse lunged for her when he saw her with a handgun, and that she went blank. Ruse was mortally injured by two gunshots and Ricchio turned herself in to police.
Prosecutors alleged that Ricchio had coolly and calculatingly stalked Ruse for months before the killing and had proclaimed to others that she wanted him dead for ending the couple's relationship.
The jury agreed, although it did not find Ricchio guilty of the special circumstance of lying in wait to kill Ruse, thereby sparing her from either the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Ricchio will be eligible for parole within 18 years.
Defense attorney Jack Earley's motion for a new trial was rejected by Miller. Earley had claimed that Ricchio was convicted on insufficient evidence and that Miller had given inadequate instructions to the jury before it began its deliberations.
Outside the courtroom, Earley said his client still does not believe she murdered Ruse.
"She hasn't accepted the fact she murdered him," he said. "She accepts responsibility for his death, that maybe he was trying to save her life (when she fired the weapon), and that is worse than murder."
Stiff Sentence Asked
Ricchio's mother, Mary Cate, told the judge before the sentencing: "For no matter what else happens, Linda must live in her own private hell for the rest of her life."
Members of the Ruse family declined comment in the courtroom, having previously sent letters to Miller asking that Ricchio be sentenced to the stiffest possible sentence.
'Chapter Is Closed'
Outside the courtroom, Ronald Ruse Sr., the victim's father, said: "This is the best we can have. This chapter is closed, but the feelings we have for the loss of our son are never closed."
Prosecutors and a probation report said that Ricchio had never shown remorse for the murder but only sadness that she would spend much of her life in prison for the killing.