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Handyman Charged in Theft From Kidnapped Girl's Home

Investigation: Man who is under suspicion in the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart took jewelry and perfume in 2001, authorities say.

July 12, 2002|From Reuters

SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors brought theft and burglary charges Thursday against a handyman who once worked at the home of kidnapped Utah teenager Elizabeth A. Smart.

Richard Albert Ricci, 48, who police say has a long criminal history, was charged with stealing jewelry and a perfume bottle from the million-dollar Salt Lake City home.

Ricci, who has already been convicted of two felonies, was also charged with being a "habitual criminal." If convicted on all counts, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Thursday's charges are unrelated to 14-year-old Elizabeth's June 5 abduction, and Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said the handyman, who has not been charged in that case but has been identified as a possible suspect, is not "the sole focus of the investigation" into her disappearance.

Despite searches mounted by hundreds of volunteers and an active campaign by the family to keep the girl's name in the news, police have found no clues to Smart's whereabouts.

"We have made some progress. It is slow," Dinse told reporters.

Ricci, who has denied any involvement in the girl's disappearance, did some odd jobs at the Smart home and was taken into custody on an unrelated parole violation on June 14 after police became suspicious about his alibi for the time the girl was kidnapped.

Ricci's attorney, David Smith, said the charges were the result of his client's cooperation with police. "I think they're trying to bring as much pressure to bear on him as possible," he said.

According to court documents Ricci allegedly stole the items "on or about June 6, 2001," nearly a year before the girl's kidnapping.

Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart, confronted Ricci about the missing items last year and fired him, even though Ricci denied stealing.

Ricci has subsequently admitted stealing items from the Smart home, the documents said. Police would not say if anything taken belonged to Elizabeth.

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