Father-in-law of man questioned in girl's disappearance says knife, hat taken from his home

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A man whose son-in-law was questioned in the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart said the FBI took a knife and a golf hat from his home.

Dave Morse Sr.'s son-in-law, Richard Ricci, worked at the Smart home as a handyman more than a year ago. He is now in custody on an unrelated parole violation and has not been charged in the disappearance of the 14-year-old girl.

Morse, 68, said one of his Scottish-style golf hats was taken from his home. Police have said the girl's sister told them the man who took Elizabeth from their bedroom June 5 wore a tan-colored Scottish-style golf hat.

``I think they're grasping at straws,'' Morse said Thursday. ``There's always a chance, but I don't think he did it.''

Morse said both hats had remained in his home and were never loaned to Ricci.

The FBI also took a machete-like knife with a foot-long blade from his shed. Morse said he uses the knife to knock limbs off trees. He said it was always locked in the shed, and Ricci didn't have a key.

Investigators, the son-in-law's lawyer and the girl's family refused to comment Thursday.

Also Thursday, a federal grand jury met for a second day to question potential witnesses.

One of them, mechanic Neth Moul, told The Associated Press that Ricci brought his 1990 sport utility vehicle into his shop on May 30. When Ricci returned the SUV to the shop June 8 for more work, Moul said he noticed that about 1,000 more miles were on the car's odometer.

Moul said Ricci never came back to pick up the Jeep. The FBI and Salt Lake City police later came and took it.

Moul said he wasn't sure when authorities took the car, but thought it was about a week ago.

On Tuesday, police handed out fliers with pictures of three vehicles Ricci has driven, including the SUV. Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, gave Ricci the car in exchange for doing handyman work last year.

Ricci has spent 29 years in and out of prison on burglary, attempted homicide, armed robbery and other convictions.

Ricci's wife has said her husband was asleep in bed on the night Elizabeth was kidnapped. Investigators have said they aren't satisfied with his alibi.

``So many comments by the police are suggesting they are focusing in on him directly. I'm convinced they're trying to focus on him as their primary suspect,'' said Ricci's lawyer, David Smith.