Friday, October 10, 2003

Man who killed young mother gets 23 years

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pete Ridder had only one question for the man convicted of killing his daughter: "Why?"

"It's the question her children keep asking me," Ridder added.

Michael Neely, convicted and sentenced Thursday to 23 years to life in prison for killing Sara Ridder, did not answer the question.

After a three-day trial, a Hamilton County jury convicted Neely, 28, of Price Hill, of aggravated murder in the fatal shooting of Ridder on March 15, 2002. Judge David Davis sentenced him.

Neely's lawyer said her client was trying to prevent his roommate, William Boyles, from killing Ridder - who was Boyles' former girlfriend - their three children and himself when he went to the ex-girlfriend's Westwood home.

Neely shot the 24-year-old Cincinnati police dispatcher with an assault rifle, but the killing wasn't something he planned, said his attorney Elizabeth Agar. He wanted to scare Ridder from testifying in a domestic violence case against Boyles, with whom she'd had a tumultuous six-year relationship, Agar said.

Neely's conviction was the last of three tied to Ridder's slaying.

Boyles was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated burglary and domestic violence. He was sentenced in January to 13 years in prison.

Boyles has since written a letter to Pam Ridder, Sara Ridder's mother, apologizing, saying he didn't mean to kill her daughter.

Daniel Battaglia Jr., 29, a friend of Boyles, is serving a three-year prison sentence for obstructing justice after he lied about not firing Boyles' SKS rifle, which police said was used to kill Ridder.

Both are appealing their sentences.

"The only thing I can say is I'm sorry," Neely said "Sorry to the family, sorry to the people I hurt."

Pete Ridder clutched his wife's hand as Davis sentenced Neely. Tears streamed down his wife's face.

"Nothing can bring Sara back," Pete Ridder said.

Sara Ridder's children, now ages 4, 5 and 7, help him keep his daughter's memory alive, he said.

"Peter, the youngest, looks just like her," he said. "I look at him, and it's like looking at her.

"He keeps me going."


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