Ritchey to serve 8-25 years in prison|
Saturday, August 11, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
Jerry Ritchey Jr., 37, of Strattanville, accused of trying to get a fellow inmate to murder three people, including his ex-wife and his current wife, and her boyfriend, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 4-9 years in prison by President Judge Fredric Ammerman at an emotional hearing yesterday morning at the Clearfield County Courthouse.
Ritchey pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal solicitation-aggravated assault, and one count of terroristic threats.
Ritchey was originally charged with three counts of criminal solicitation-murder in the first degree; criminal solicitation; and aggravated assault but agreed to plead guilty in a plea agreement made with Clearfield County District Attorney William Shaw Jr.
Ammerman sentenced Ritchey to serve 3-6 years in prison on each count of criminal solicitation to be served concurrently with each other, and 1-3 years consecutively on the terroristic threats charge, giving him a total sentence on the charges of 4-9 years in prison.
However, Ammerman ruled this sentence to run consecutive to Ritchey's previous sentence on a burglary conviction. Last week Ritchey pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary and was sentenced by Ammerman to serve 1-4 years in prison on each count, and for them to run consecutively.
So this gives Ritchey a total sentence of 8-25 years in prison on the two criminal solicitation charges, the terroristic threats charge plus the four burglary charges.
Ritchey had burglarized four locations on the night of July 20-21, 2011, 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.
While he was incarcerated in the Clearfield County Jail last September while awaiting trial on the burglary charges, Ritchey asked his cellmate, who was scheduled to be released in December, to murder his ex-wife and her boyfriend. In exchange, Ritchey said he would allow him to participate in a burglary where he knew they could get a lot of money.
The cellmate said Ritchey was upset that his ex-wife was not allowing him to see his children.
Ritchey even gave him a piece of paper with his ex-wife's address and the address of his current wife, as well as a detailed description of her.
Ritchey later asked him if he could disfigure his current wife by either slashing her face or throwing acid in her face. The CI testified that Ritchey said she was planning to testify against him and was seeing someone else and Ritchey believed that if she were disfigured, she would come back to him.
However, the cellmate informed authorities of his plan and state police investigators placed a concealed recording device on the informant and recorded Ritchey discussing his plans with his cellmate. When he was recorded, Ritchey asked his cellmate to murder not only his ex-wife but his ex-wife's boyfriend and his current wife. Police also recovered a map Ritchey drew of his ex-wife's residence showing him where to go and how to carry out the murder.
Ritchey's ex-wife addressed the court and asked Ammerman to sentence Ritchey to the maximum sentence allowable, saying she wanted him to serve at least 20 years in prison.
She also asked Ammerman to sentence him to an out-of-state prison to make it harder for him to try to get someone to kill her or her daughters, for all his parental rights to be terminated, and for Ritchey to receive a psychological examination.
His ex-wife's statement was emotional and she often cried while giving it. She said she has lived in fear of her life since 2007 and although this is the first time he has been caught, this is not the first time Ritchey has tried to kill her or harm her, and asked the court to give him a long prison sentence to protect her and her two daughters.
She said her daughters often witnessed Ritchey abuse her and she wants Ritchey kept away from them to preserve the rest of their childhoods.
"I don't want that monster around my children," Ritchey's ex-wife said.
However, Ammerman said that he can only set the minimum and maximums of Ritchey's sentence and it will be up to the state prison system to determine exactly how much time Ritchey actually serves.
As for her request that he serve in an out-of-state prison, Ammerman said he has no control over where Ritchey serves his sentence. He said at one time the state did send prisoners to Michigan due to prison overcrowding but believes the state is now bringing them back.
As for revoking Ritchey's custody rights of the two children, Ammerman said that is beyond the purview of the hearing and because she, the children and Ritchey are residents of Venango County, that is something for the Venango County courts to decide and is beyond the Clearfield County court's jurisdiction.
Ritchey also addressed the court. He asked Ammerman to make the sentence on the criminal solicitation and terroristic charges concurrent with his burglary sentence so he could get out of prison earlier.
Ritchey claimed his ex-wife's accusations are false and said he loves his children and they love him. He also said he has gotten his life back on the right path.
He said what brought him to this was that while in jail he received a letter from his mother informing him that she had cancer. He said communications are difficult when one is in jail and said it affected him deeply that he could not be there to help her through this difficult time.
Ritchey said he has the gift of being a good speaker and when he gets out of prison he would like to set up a program to convince people not to take the same path in life that he did.
Ritchey's attorney, Joseph Ryan of Brookville, also asked Ammerman to consider that what Ritchey was doing was nothing more than "talking big" with his fellow inmates, something people in jail often do.
However, Ammerman denied their request; he also ordered Ritchey to have no contact with his ex-wife or her boyfriend, and any contact with his children would have to be first approved by a court with the proper jurisdiction.
Before the hearing was adjourned, Ritchey's mother stood up in the gallery and asked to address the court. She broke down and wept, and said although she never committed any crime, she will likely never see her grandchildren again.
Ammerman responded by saying access to her grandchildren was through Ritchey's access, and if his criminal actions results in him losing access to his children, then she, too, has become another victim of his criminal activities.
Ammerman said he wished people would consider the consequences of their actions and all the people affected by them before engaging in criminal activities.
Before the hearing was adjourned, Ritchey asked for one last request, he said he has been in jail for about a year now and asked if he could kiss his mother before being taken away.
However, Ammerman said he has to follow the recommendations of sheriff deputies who are responsible for security in the courthouse and denied his request.
Following the hearing, when asked by The Progress whether he believed Ritchey's sentence was sufficient to protect his ex-wife and her children, Shaw said although Ritchey is eligible for parole after eight years, in violent crimes such as this, Ritchey will likely serve at least 20 years in prison.
Plus, he said Ritchey is facing additional burglary charges in Clarion and Venango counties and, if convicted, the sentencing guidelines call for even stiffer penalties because he now has previous convictions on his record.
As for Ritchey's attorney's argument that it was only prison yard bluster, Shaw said authorities have to take all such threats seriously because people do sometimes carry them out.
The Progress does not publish the names of domestic violence victims.