Man Sentenced In Death Of Mentally Disabled Man

Saturday, December 15th 2007, 7:59 am
By: News On 6

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) _ One of the killers of a mentally disabled man who had been forced to wear a T-shirt soaked in lighter fluid, then set aflame, was sentenced Friday to 20 to 40 years in prison.

Russell Hilliard, 36, of Butler, pleaded guilty in May to third-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Jason M. Ritzert, whose body was found burned beyond recognition in a trash bin in November 2005.

Timothy J. Caldwell and Melissa Adams, have already been sentenced. Authorities said Caldwell and Adams tortured and killed Ritzert because they thought he was stealing money. Adams and Hilliard were accused of burning and torturing the man, authorities said.

Ritzert was forced to wear the soaked T-shirt and was set on fire as he lay in a bathtub, police said. After he lost consciousness, Caldwell kicked him and put his foot on the man's chest and neck for five to 10 minutes, police said.

The defendants then took Ritzert's body to a trash bin, where they set it on fire, police said.

Caldwell is serving a life term in prison after pleading guilty in March to first-degree murder. Adams is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in September to third-degree murder.