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THE NATION

Utah Girl's Kidnapping Case Focuses on Former Handyman

June 25, 2002|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A handyman who worked at the home of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart has been arrested for a parole violation and is at the top of the list of potential suspects in her disappearance, police said Monday.

Richard Albert Ricci, who has a 29-year criminal record, was questioned by police the day after the girl's apparent abduction and was among those re-interviewed because he did painting and yard work at the home.

Ricci's alibi "became more suspicious" when he was questioned again, Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said Monday. The chief wouldn't elaborate.

"At this point in time, he is not a charged suspect, but he is very interesting," Dinse said.

The chief said Ricci has denied involvement in the disappearance.

Ricci was arrested on an unrelated parole violation June 14, nine days after Elizabeth was reported taken at gunpoint from her bedroom in an affluent Salt Lake City neighborhood.

Despite having had Ricci in custody for 11 days, police haven't been able to pin down his whereabouts on the morning of the abduction, Dinse said.

Ricci, 48, had been living in a trailer park in the suburb of Kearns. His criminal history in Utah dates to 1973, and he was convicted 10 years later of attempted homicide for shooting a police officer.

Chris Thomas, a family spokesman, said Ricci worked at the Smarts' home a year ago.

Ricci's house and car have been searched and he has voluntarily talked to police, Dinse said.

Police have not shown Ricci's photograph to the sole witness of the apparent abduction, Elizabeth's 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine Smart.

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