Police, wife of accused testify at trial|
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
Yesterday the jury heard more testimony from police and the defendant's wife on the second day of the Jerry L. Ritchey trial being held before President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
Ritchey, 37, of Strattanville, is accused of burglarizing four locations on the night of July 20-21 including the Bradford Township Municipal Building, Apex Hydraulics & Machine of Decatur Township, D.C. Enterprises of Decatur Township and T.L. Bainey Trucking of West Decatur, Bradford Township.
Ritchey is charged with burglary, four counts; criminal trespass, four counts; theft by unlawful taking, two counts; and criminal mischief, two counts.
The state police suspected Ritchey in a string of commercial burglaries in western Pennsylvania and had placed a GPS tracking device on his car in early July and had him under surveillance the night of the burglaries.
He is also scheduled to go on trial in August on four counts of criminal solicitation-murder. While he was incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail on the burglary charges, Ritchey is accused of trying to get his cellmate to murder his ex-wife, his current wife and his ex-wife's boyfriend.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. called Ritchey's wife to the stand yesterday. She testified they were married on July 6 and went to Clearwater, Fla., for their honeymoon on July 7. Before going to Florida, she said Ritchey purchased a pair of water shoes at the Walmart in Clarion to use at the beach, but said they left them there because they did not want to take them back on the plane. She said they talked about Ritchey getting another pair but she does not know if he did.
When Shaw showed her water shoes that had treads that were introduced into evidence as having treads consistent with the footprints found at the burglaries, she said they were the same type of shoes Ritchey had.
She said Ritchey would sometimes stay out all night and come home early in the morning. Ritchey worked for a plumbing, heating and air conditioning service company and said she thought he was out working.
Under cross-examination by Ritchey's attorney, she said she also later learned that Ritchey was being unfaithful to her and was sleeping with other women.
Although she was testifying on behalf of the commonwealth, Ritchey appeared to be happy to see his wife again and looked directly at her and smiled at her throughout her entire time on the witness stand.
During the trial, Ritchey would usually sit stoically at the defense table and take notes while the prosecution witnesses testified against him.
On the criminal solicitation charge, Ritchey is accused of first asking his cellmate to disfigure his wife by throwing acid in her face so she would not leave him and because she was testifying against him. He later changed his mind and asked that she be killed, according to a previous article in The Progress.
Cpl. Donald Cloak, patrol supervisor and a criminal investigator at the time, also testified. During his testimony, he showed video surveillance footage of Ritchey going into Sheetz stores in Clarion and Brookville on the evening of July 20 wearing a white t-shirt and tan cargo shorts. Footage of the parking lot showed him getting out of the Mazda that was being tracked by police.
At the Clarion Sheetz, he purchased a flashlight and two pairs of gloves with rubber grip dots on the palm consistent with a print found on some paper inside one of the businesses that was burglarized.
He also showed surveillance video of Ritchey buying two pairs of water shoes at the Clarion Walmart, one pair on May 21 and one pair on July 17 with treads that are consistent with footprints found at all four burglaries.
On July 27, Cloak testified that Ritchey came to the station and agreed to be interviewed. Cloak said Ritchey denied driving on U.S. Route 322 on the evening of July 20-21 and said he was never there and didn't even know where it was.
When asked if he had ever gotten lost in the area, Ritchey said "no" and said he has a GPS on his phone that keeps him from getting lost.
Shortly afterward, they arrested him and took him to Clearfield for arraignment. After being arraigned, Ritchey said he wanted to talk to them again.
Cloak said they agreed and when they met Ritchey, he asked them hypothetically if someone were guilty of the 80-100 burglaries they say he is, would it be better for them to admit to it now, all at once. Cloak said they answered it would.
But he said Ritchey just looked down, put his face in his hands and said, "Sorry guys, I can't. I just can't."
Shaw also called Trooper Jared Thomas of the state police vice unit to the stand.
Thomas testified on the evening of July 20-21 he was tracking the movements of Ritchey's car in real time via the tracking device the state police had placed on his car.
Thomas testified that when Ritchey's car left his home in Strattanville, he radioed the state troopers who were scheduled to conduct undercover surveillance on Ritchey's car that evening to inform them of his movements.
Thomas stayed at the barracks the entire evening and radioed Ritchey's positions to the other troopers in the field who were conducting surveillance on Ritchey that evening until Ritchey returned home at 5 a.m. Thomas did say there were times when he would lose the cellular signal and would lose track of Ritchey's vehicle.
He also testified Ritchey's vehicle was stationary for extended periods of time that night at locations near where the burglaries occurred. It was stationary 11:28 p.m. and 2:05 a.m. on Geo Drive in Philipsburg near D.C Enterprises and Apex Hydraulic & Machine. From 2:43 a.m. to 3:37 a.m. it was stationary along U.S. 322 near Bainey Trucking. From 4:07 a.m. to 4:49 a.m. it was stationary along Barrett Road in Woodland near the Bradford Municipal Building.
He also testified that Ritchey's vehicle would often turn around and go back and forth on U.S. 322.
Troopers James McIntosh and Michael Boltz testified that they were assigned to conduct surveillance on Ritchey that evening. They both gave similar testimony on Ritchey's movements saying he would repeatedly turn around and go back and forth on U.S. 322 between Clearfield and Philipsburg.
Boltz and McIntosh both testified in the early morning hours of July 21, Thomas informed them that Ritchey's car had become stationary along Geo Road just outside of Philipsburg. The troopers, who were in separate vehicles, said they could not see Ritchey's vehicle at the location so they set up a "triangle" with another trooper around the location hoping to see Ritchey when he left.
The troopers testified that Ritchey's car was stationary near a row of businesses that had an alley behind it that lead to U.S. 322.
At approximately 1:55 a.m. Boltz testified he heard an audible alarm directly across from him in the woods but could not see where it was coming from.
At 2:05 a.m. he was informed by Thomas that Richey's car was moving again and it was on U.S. 322 so he left his position and began following him.
Ritchey continued to drive back and forth on U.S. 322 and the troopers described this as being consistent with Ritchey attempting to "clear his tail" in case someone was following him.
Ritchey also got into the left lane as if he was turning left and instead swerved back into the center lane and went straight, and once he made a left turn from the straight lane.
Boltz testified that at one point, he took a position in the parking lot of the Bigler Minit Mart and when Ritchey's vehicle crossed in front of his, he could see inside and said he could see that Ritchey was operating the vehicle and saw no one else in the vehicle with him.
While Ritchey was in Clearfield, Thomas lost the cellular connection with the tracking device and Boltz said he was told to take a position outside of Ritchey's home in Strattanville and wait for him to come home.
Boltz said when Ritchey arrived home at approximately 5 a.m. it was daylight. He said he saw Ritchey get out of the car and said he was wearing a white sleeveless t-shirt with tan cargo shorts and flip-flops. When Ritchey got out of the vehicle, he got something from the back seat, but Boltz could not see what it was.
When he saw Ritchey get out of the vehicle, Boltz drove on the alley that runs right next to Ritchey's home and said he got within 15 feet of Ritchey as he entered his home. He was positive the man was Ritchey.
Trooper Theodore Horner of the state police forensics unit testified he processed and collected evidence at all four of the burglary scenes and took pictures of the footprints and damage done to the locations.
Under cross-examination by Ritchey's attorney, Joe Ryan, Horner said the footprints found at the scene were consistent with the water shoes' treads that Ritchey had purchased, but could not say with certainty that they were the shoes that made the prints.
Shaw rested his case yesterday and the defense will present its case today.
However, Ryan informed the court that his client does not intend to testify.
Although the trial is scheduled to last through Thursday, Judge Ammerman said he expects it will end today.