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Handyman in Elizabeth Smart case dies

Handyman in Elizabeth Smart case dies

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) -- Richard Ricci, the one-time handyman who police questioned in the abduction of teenager Elizabeth Smart, died Friday night, a family spokeswoman said.

Ricci, 48, underwent six hours of emergency surgery Wednesday to correct a spontaneous brain hemorrhage. He had been in a coma since then, and died at 7:28 p.m. Friday at University Hospital, said Nancy Pomeroy.

Police Chief Rick Dinse said Wednesday that if Ricci died, it could have a "big impact" on the Smart investigation.

"He is an individual that during our investigation, generally speaking, he never volunteered a lot of information," Dinse said.

Ricci, who was being held at the Utah State Prison in Draper for a parole violation, told a guard he was suffering from a headache Tuesday evening, said Jesse Gallegos, deputy director of the Utah Department of Corrections. When medical personnel arrived at his cell, they found Ricci unconscious.

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He was taken to the prison infirmary, then airlifted to the university's hospital in Salt Lake City by helicopter, Gallegos said.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department found no indication of foul play, Gallegos said.

Ricci not called a suspect

Smart was abducted at gunpoint from the family's 6,600-square-foot home in the early hours of June 5 while her parents and four brothers slept. Her younger sister, who was in the bedroom with Elizabeth, witnessed the abduction.

Ricci once worked in the Smart home as a handyman and has a 30-year criminal record.

Dinse would not characterize Ricci as a suspect, saying there were "other individuals that we are looking at that may have some kind of connection."

"They also may have some connection to Mr. Ricci," the sheriff said.

"He has told us things that we don't believe are true," Dinse said.

Police had charged Ricci with two counts of theft and one count of burglary unrelated to Smart's abduction. He had denied any involvement in the Smart case.

One of the theft counts relates to items he allegedly stole from the Smart home on or about June 6, 2001 -- nearly one year before Elizabeth disappeared.

The items taken were worth about $3,500 and included jewelry, a bottle of perfume and a wine glass filled with seashells, according to court documents.

Ricci also was charged with burglary and theft from another home in the same Federal Heights neighborhood.

A federal grand jury last month indicted Ricci in a bank robbery that took place near Salt Lake City in November 2001, along with two other men, according to the U.S. attorney's office. No one was injured in the robbery.

Ricci was charged with one count each of armed bank robbery, brandishing a firearm in the commission of a violent crime and being a felon in possession of a firearm.




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