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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Suspect Richard Ricci Has Long Criminal Record

Aired June 25, 2002 - 13:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DET. DEWAYNE BAIRD, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE: ... May 31 though June 8 of this year. Understand that we have had these vehicles in our custody, two of which have been released. Those released were the 1992 tan Ford Taurus and the 1995 white, four-door Oldsmobile Cutlass. We still have in our custody the 1990 four-door, white Jeep Cherokee.

We want information concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Ricci and his activity with these three vehicles, any of these three vehicles, during those dates that I mentioned; again, May 31 through June 8. We are asking for the help from the public in this matter, so that we can clear up some questions we have in this investigation. Thank you.

ED SMART, MISSING GIRL'S FATHER: I just want to ask for continued support. We -- you know we are encouraged by the way the investigation is going. We don't know anything conclusively, and we are still asking that everyone out there keep searching, using your eyes and ears and prayers. That is what we are really focusing on. We still feel very, very strongly that Elizabeth is still out there, waiting for us to find her. And we are -- we need everybody's help to continue focusing on this, that we can find her.

I can't thank everyone enough for their support. It's just been terrific. And I have said this time and time again, we really appreciate the support and the help that we have had from the community and from the people across the state and across the nation, because we don't know where she is. And it's going to be that one person noticing something unusual that is going to help her -- help her get back to us. And we really would ask that you continue searching, and we really, really appreciate the support. The outpouring has been just amazing.

QUESTION: Ed, can you talk a little bit about Richard Ricci and what you think about (OFF-MIKE) ?

E. SMART: You know, I can say -- make a few comments about Richard. Richard was referred to me by another contractor who hadn't used him, but he seemed to be fairly competent. And I had him come over. I had absolutely no knowledge of his background whatsoever. I never would have ever hired him had I known that. And you know, that is -- whether that's my naivety or whatever, I just never, ever would have exposed my family to that.

QUESTION: Do you think he would have had any motive for revenge at all?

E. SMART: I -- you know, I honestly can't think that he would have revenge. I -- you know, the car has been talked about. I -- when he came to work for me, he did not have a vehicle, and he was talking about trying to get a car. I had this old Cherokee, and I told him -- we actually wrote up a contract that he would work X- number of hours for me, and that he would work that off. And he did work that all the way through, and you know, I signed the lien off. He has that in his possession.

I -- you know, I never felt like I had misgivings with him. You know, sometimes he was a little bit undependable. But I -- you know, I never would have guessed in my wildest dreams that -- you know, about his background.

QUESTION: Can you explain to us the circumstances in which you parted ways? Was he fired, or did he (OFF-MIKE) ?

E. SMART: You know, I can't go into it. But he worked for me, worked the car off, and he did complete it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) timeline question where he left your house last June. It was the last time he worked for you, and he came back in the fall.

E. SMART: No, the thing that I can tell you is he called me. I had the lien on the car, so the title came to me. And I had signed it off, and I had it there waiting for him to pick up. And in, it was either September or October, I got a call from him saying, "Ed, did you receive the title?" And I said, yes. And I said, I've got it right here. You can swing by and pick it up.

QUESTION: Then how well did he know your children? How familiar was he with them?

E. SMART: Well, you know, he was there for a couple of months. So, I mean, he was very -- you know, he was familiar with them.

QUESTION: Was he a nice guy? Would you consider him a nice guy?

E. SMART: You know, he seemed nice enough. I mean, he seemed -- I have heard mention that the Mitchell (ph) guy said that he was very personable, and he could be very, very personable.

QUESTION: One more question.

QUESTION: Did you ever suspect him of stealing anything from your home?

E. SMART: You know, I can't go into that. But you know, he seemed like a very nice guy. Thank you.

QUESTION: Was he angry, though, when he left your employ?

E. SMART: No, I don't think he was angry.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) back, Ed, to work for you again (OFF-MIKE) ?

E. SMART: I can't go into it. OK? Thanks.

DAVID SMART, MISSING GIRL'S UNCLE: Just a little bit about the search efforts. I mean, state-wide, you have heard numbers put out. I think a number of about 10,000 was an estimate that was put out as far as searchers going out. To be able to verify that number, it's very difficult to do that.

But I must say the search efforts are just as strong as when we had the main command center here going with all of the search efforts going out. As a matter of fact, it has -- I think with us going into the community, it has intensified. The community has picked it up extremely well and has moved ahead with the search efforts.

There are searches still happening all across the state. And also with the Web site and information on the Web site, there are a lot of new pictures. We do have a new Web site up and going. It's still under elizabethsmart.com. And we are continuing to do more things to the Web site as time goes on, and we have time to develop those tools such as possible, the creation of search groups online and collecting of information online as well.

If there are any other questions, we would be more than happy to answer any other questions you may have.

QUESTION: David, does the family believe that Ricci is a suspect?

D. SMART: You know, we really can't even -- you know, it was the same thing with Edmunds. It was the same thing with the profile that was put out before. You know, sure, it could be closer, because he was a worker. But it comes back to the fact the main thing is we don't have Elizabeth back in our arms yet. And until we have Elizabeth back, we have to continue searching and turning every stone over possible to find any information or any clue or Elizabeth.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

D. SMART: As far as the effort goes or -- no, I think the effort and the search continues on as strong as ever.

DAVID FRANCOM, MISSING GIRLS' UNCLE: We want to continue the search until Elizabeth is back. We still have the hope, the faith. And we want Elizabeth back, and we are going to continue working.

QUESTION: Is your hope and your faith, though, for a positive turnout in terms of the search efforts (OFF-MIKE) ?

FRANCOM: Absolutely.

D. SMART: Actually, the numbers of people coming in here and performing searches that we knew compared to what's going on now, it's a much-intensified search that's happening across the state and even over the borders of the state as well. So it's alive and it's going very well as far as the search. You don't see it, you know. We are not seeing the massive volumes of volunteers coming in here, the waves of volunteers, but we are hearing a lot of information coming in from all of the volunteers across the state and even extended.

QUESTION: How would you characterize your optimism now?

D. SMART: We are still as hopeful as ever. We feel Elizabeth is still alive, and we will not stop until we have her back.

FRANCOM: We can't give up hope. That's what we are holding on to.

QUESTION: David, it has been three weeks...

D. SMART: Which Dave?

QUESTION: Either one.

FRANCOM: Either one.

QUESTION: And people are still going out there and searching. And some might consider that is kind of unusual, that after a certain amount of time goes by and, you know, people kind of go back to their regular lives, and you guys are trying to survive (ph). What do you attribute the interest and the compassion of this community (OFF-MIKE) ? Why do they keep going out? (OFF-MIKE).

FRANCOM: Well, I think that the people around the state, around the country feel the hope that we have. I think they feel that, you know, they would want that to happen for them if they were in our shoes. And I know that people who have come up to me and just said that they love us, that they are hoping for us, that they are praying for us, and that they want to continue to do whatever they can do. We appreciate that. You know, I just think it's a matter of hope.

D. SMART: If you look at the security of having a young girl taken from her own house, a house of safety and refuge, I think a lot of people relate to that. I mean, this is -- it's a terror that has taken place. And the fact that we don't have Elizabeth back and all of the prayers that are going out, I mean, that's really contributed to our efforts as well as continuing. And the moral support that's been given to us from all the prayers, all of the information coming in and all of the people going out, I mean, it really -- it builds our hope.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FRANCOM: Well, certainly we have our own children that we need to protect and care for, and we are doing that. We are taking care of ourselves, but we are also focusing all of our energies really towards returning the Ed and Lois Smart family together as a whole family.

D. SMART: We are dividing our time up, you know, between work and between Elizabeth and between our family. We have to have balance, especially for our own families. But as far as the effort goes, I mean, we continue full-heartedly in whether it's going out on searches, whether it's meeting and discussing different issues that come up, or other effective methods of trying to find Elizabeth, or helping the police, or you know, whatever we can do, we are doing that.

But, yes, we do have to have balance in our lives as well, and we have -- I think we have effectively -- well, are effectively trying to implement that in our lives.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all about media attention essentially (ph) dropping off (OFF-MIKE) ?

FRANCOM: We are taking each day as it comes, and each day we are hoping that this will be the day that we find Elizabeth. And we have appreciated what the media does and continues to do to keep Elizabeth in focus, and the fact that that's why we are here.

D. SMART: Especially the responsible journalism that has taken place. We really applaud you for that in helping us. Anything else?

FRANCOM: Thank you.

D. SMART: Thank you.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: That wraps up the daily news conference there in Salt Lake City, talking about the search for 14- year-old Elizabeth Smart continuing. Also Ed Smart, the father -- Elizabeth's father, coming out saying he is very encouraged by the way the investigation is going. And then the newest information that has developed, the talk of a couple of more cars, in addition to the Cherokee that was exchanged with the handyman, Richard Albert Ricci, with Ed Smart, this white Cherokee.

Let's bring in our Ed Lavandera. He has been following, of course, all of the news conferences that have taken place. Ed, we sort of came in as one of the officials was talking about the tan Ford Taurus and the white, four-door Cutlass -- white Cutlass. Talk to us about how this all plays into this.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, we can start filling in the blanks here, because the police, at the beginning of this press conference, handing out a form here with three pictures, Ricci's picture here and three pictures of the cars they are looking into. Here is the white Jeep Cherokee that Ed Smart said he had given to Richard Ricci as part of payment for some work he had done on the house. The other car here is a 1992 Ford Taurus, four-door, tan colored, and also a 1995 four-door, white Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Now, these two cars have been returned to the family. The white Cherokee is still being looked into. We have video of the Ford Taurus that was in front of the in-laws' house. Richard Ricci lives in a trailer park community with his wife very near his in-laws. And his in-laws had that car in front of their house yesterday.

Now, the reason they are looking at all of these cars is because what they are trying to do is put together a timeline between May 31 of this year and June 8 of this year. If you remember what police said yesterday that they weren't convinced by exactly what Richard Ricci had been telling them as to where he was and what he had been doing and what his timeline has been of his movements all over this city.

So they are hoping that people will see the pictures of these cars, perhaps have spotted them around town, provide some information to police that will help them reconstruct the timeline of what Richard Ricci had been doing in Salt Lake City between May 31 and June 8 of this year.

Now, his family says that Richard Ricci is a good person, and that he has an alibi for where he was the early-morning hours of June 5. We had a chance to catch up with his in-laws. CNN's Jeanne Meserve found them and spoke with them yesterday, and here is what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have been told by neighbors and everything else that he was here the night it happened, and by my daughter, who would know that he was here. And I can't see what -- how he could be involved at all. Like I say, he has been a good son- in-law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: Now, police say that Richard Ricci hasn't confessed to anything. They still haven't called him officially a suspect, and perhaps they are waiting on more information to come in. But they do say that he is at the top of the list of all of the people they are looking at, at this point, and because of his connection to the house last year. That's how police got hold of his name. And then when they did the back track, they started searching into his background and that turned up a 30-year criminal history here in Utah, which includes aggravated assault, burglary and attempted murder of police officer in 1983.

So those are some of the things that led them to believe. You heard Ed Smart saying that he had no idea about Richard Ricci's background. Had he known, he would never have exposed family to this person.

There were also some issues, it sounds like he was asked at one point how well his kids might have known this, and Ed Smart saying that after several months in the house that his kids did become familiar with Richard Ricci. To what point and to what extent, perhaps not totally clear, but there is some sort of a relationship there, perhaps some sort of familiarity between the kids and Richard Ricci -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed, thanks so much. Definitely a lesson here, too, about checking out individuals who are working in your home -- no doubt. Ed Lavandera from Salt Lake -- thanks a lot.

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