Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Lebanon woman held in shooting

911 dispatcher told husband was abusive

By Sheila McLaughlin and Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - Rhonda Ricketts said she planned to plant flowers with her teenage daughter Tuesday afternoon in the yard of her Silverwood Farms Drive home.

Instead, she was held in the fatal shooting of her husband, who was found dead in an upstairs bedroom shortly after noon.

In a 911 tape the Enquirer obtained from Lebanon police, Ricketts sobbed to a dispatcher that she was bruised from previous beatings by her husband, Steve, and that she shot him twice Tuesday after he slapped her face so hard her "head was pounding."

She said she had asked him if he wanted something to eat. She had been washing her car and was waiting for her daughter to return home with flowers.

"I didn't mean to ... I couldn't take any more. I was just going to scare him. He rolled over toward me and my finger pulled it (the trigger) and I couldn't stop," Ricketts told the dispatcher. She said she thought she shot him in the back.

Her husband then came toward her, Rhonda Ricketts told the dispatcher.

"I didn't know what to do. I thought he was going to choke me again or hit me again, so I shot him again," she said. "I lost control. He beat me so much my legs are blue."

Officers found him dead in the bedroom while Ricketts was still talking to the 911 dispatcher.

She told the dispatcher that her husband had kicked her out of the house and she was planning to move out that week. She said she was scared to be alone, and that she loved her husband "very much."

There was no indication from local court records that the couple had been involved in domestic disputes.

Ricketts was first taken to the Bethesda Warren County urgent care center for treatment and was being held at the county jail Tuesday. Meanwhile, police, armed with a warrant, searched the Ricketts' home and car for evidence in the homicide.

Sgt. Jeff Mitchell said the case would be reviewed by county prosecutors today to determine what, if any, charges are warranted.

"There's always an 'if any,' county prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said Tuesday evening after learning of Ricketts' claims of abuse. "Certainly that is a disturbing 911 tape. But that's not the only evidence we will be looking at."

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