Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart

One Sick, One Dead

Salt Lake City police department
Salt Lake City police department

When a child is abducted, the police cannot rule out family members as possible suspects, so the Salt Lake City police asked the male members of the Smart family to submit to polygraph tests administered by the FBI. Tom Smart writes in his book, In Plain Sight, that his polygraph test took nearly eight hours, most of it grueling and gut-wrenching. Ed Smart described his polygraph experience as "four hours of hell." Ultimately the lie-detector tests did not single out a possible suspect within the family.

In the meantime the search for drifter Bret Michael Edmunds continued. Ten days after the manhunt began, the police located him in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he had checked himself into a hospital under an alias. A drug overdose had seriously damaged his liver, and he was in bad shape. He had given the hospital his mother's name and Utah phone number in case of an emergency. A hospital social worker called the number, and one of Edmunds's relatives notified the police of his whereabouts.

Federal marshals guarded Edmunds until investigators from Utah could get there. The marshals found Edmunds's green Saturn in the parking lot. The investigators tried to interview him as soon as they arrived, but he was barely conscious. The next day he was more coherent and able to answer questions, but it became clear from his answers that he knew nothing about the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. He gave the police permission to search his car, but there was no physical evidence to suggest that he had been involved in the crime. The police crossed him off their list of suspects.

Richard Ricci
Richard Ricci

Attention now turned to handyman Richard Ricci. On August 27, six and a half weeks after his arrest, Ricci was taken to Third District Court for a brief hearing on burglary charges. Ed and Lois Smart attended the hearing, desperate for some kind of sign from him that he knew where Elizabeth was, but Ricci avoided eye contact with them.

That evening in jail Ricci called a guard to his cell, complaining of a severe headache and shortness of breath. Within minutes he collapse and fell unconscious. He was rushed to University Hospital where he fell into a coma. Doctors determined that Ricci had suffered a brain hemorrhage, and the next morning surgeons operated to remove fluid on his brain. He lay unconscious, his doctors certain that he had sustained brain damage. His prognosis wasn't good, and his wife considered taking him off life support.

Richard Ricci
Richard Ricci

When the Smarts learned of Ricci's condition, they panicked. What if Ricci did know something about Elizabeth's kidnapping? That information would die with him if he were allowed to expire. They felt they couldn't afford to let Mrs. Ricci pull the plug on her husband. But ultimately Ricci's wife didn't have to make the fateful decision to end her husband's life. Three days after he collapsed in his cell, Richard Ricci died on his own.

The Smarts now felt that they had lost their best chance to learn what had happened to their daughter.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'