The widow of the man suspected of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart has committed suicide, and her son blamed it on stress from her husband being falsely accused — making this just the latest tragic fallout from the kidnapping that galvanized the nation in 2002.
“The official cause of death was suicide, but I believe she died from a broken heart,” wrote Angela Morse Ricci’s son, Trevor Morse, on a gofundme page for her funeral expenses.
Angela Ricci was found dead of a drug overdose in her Kearns, Utah, home last week.
Her late husband, Smart family handyman Richard Ricci, was arrested in June 2002, after 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart disappeared from her family’s Salt Lake City home.
He died in prison on Aug. 30, 2002, after suffering a brain aneurysm. He insisted on his innocence until the day he died.
And he was innocent.
Elizabeth’s real kidnappers, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were arrested in March 2003, exonerating the dead man.
Misidentifying a suspect was one of the most tragic blunders of the investigation, but by no means the only one.
Elizabeth was found in Sandy City, Utah, just 15 minutes away from her home in Salt Lake City. Her captors camped in the mountains behind the Smart home for the first two months after her abduction! How could searchers have missed them?
Mary Katherine Smart, Elizabeth’s then 9-year-old sister was the lone witness, and had told her family the kidnapper looked like their handyman. Salt Lake City police interviewed Mary Katherine on Oct. 15, 2002. The Smart family wanted to release a composite sketch immediately but cops elected not to!
“I wish we had chosen to go public earlier,” Cory Lyman, the former lead investigator in the Smart case, told ABC News. “We didn’t think it would be so difficult to find this guy.”
Mitchell liked to call himself “Emmanuel” — and a clerical error stemming from that alias likely delayed finding Elizabeth by months.
Emmanuel was arrested in Salt Lake City on shoplifting charges on Sept. 27, but police spelled the name incorrectly — as “Immanuel” — so police looking for “Emmaneul” overlooked him.
Finally, Mitchell was arrested in San Diego on Feb. 12 and held for six days — but the SDPD was completely unaware that Salt Lake police wanted him for questioning.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said no multi-state bulletin was issued because Mitchell did not have a violent criminal record, and cops did not have enough evidence on him.