KEARNS — The widow of Richard Ricci, the man originally accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart, was found dead in her home last week of an apparent prescription drug overdose.
"The official cause of death was suicide, but I believe she died from a broken heart," the son of Angela Morse Ricci noted on a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for funeral expenses.
On June 14, 2002, Richard Ricci was arrested, nine days after Smart was taken from her Salt Lake City home. He was sent to the Utah State Prison for a parole violation. On Aug. 27, 2002, Ricci suffered an aneurysm and fell into a coma while at the prison. He died at University Hospital Aug. 30.
Although he was never charged with kidnapping, Ricci remained the top suspect in her disappearance up until the day that Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were arrested on March 12, 2003. Mitchell and Barzee were eventually charged and convicted.
"He was convicted by the police and the public, and was intensely interrogated, all the while trying to tell anyone who would listen that he was innocent," his son stated on the GoFundMe page.
Trevor Morse was 11 at the time of his father's arrest.
According to those who knew her, Richard Ricci's arrest, death, and the intense allegations that surrounded him were extremely hard on Angela Ricci and she never fully got over it.
"Our lives changed drastically from the moment he was falsely accused," Morse stated. "Since the day Richard Ricci died, my mother's broken heart never healed. Even through her many trials and tribulations, my mother would always make time for family and friends. Her house was open to anyone who needed a place to stay."
Angela Ricci sued various government entities claiming her husband's civil rights were violated. She also sued for wrongful death. Those suits were dismissed. She received a $150,000 settlement from the Utah Department of Corrections in 2004, but the state did not admit any wrongdoing.