Burglary, theft charges filed against former handyman for Elizabeth Smart's family

Friday, July 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A handyman who once worked in the home of Elizabeth Smart, a 14-year-old who disappeared last month, has been charged with burglary and theft charges for allegedly stealing from his employers, police said.

Police said the charges filed against Richard Ricci on Thursday were not related to the disappearance of the teen.

Investigators have said Ricci is at the top of their list of potential suspects in Elizabeth's disappearance. But Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said the man ``has not been charged with that crime and is not the sole focus of the investigation.''

Elizabeth was taken from her bedroom at gunpoint as her younger sister watched on June 5, authorities say.

On Wednesday, Ed Smart said he received a letter that he suspects may have come from someone with knowledge of his daughter's abduction. But Smart also said he could not say whether the unsigned letter, which he received Tuesday, was credible.

Ricci, 48, was charged with one count of theft for allegedly stealing $3,500 worth of items _ jewelry, a perfume bottle and a wine glass filled with sea shells _ in June 2001. They were found during a search of his home last month, according to charging documents.

He is also charged with one count of burglary and one count of theft for allegedly taking jewelry and about $300 in cash from another home in the Smarts' wealthy neighborhood in April 2001.

Ricci's wife has said her husband was with her the night Elizabeth disappeared. 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.

Because Ricci is considered a career criminal, he faces up to life in prison for the charges. He is already in prison on unrelated parole violations.

Ricci was scheduled to make his initial court appearance Wednesday.