Neo-Nazi to be re-tried in Phoenix death of woman in interracial couple
PHOENIX — A neo-Nazi who was charged with trying to kill a black man and fatally shooting the man’s white girlfriend nearly eight years ago after a dispute in a Phoenix park will go on trial again after a judge declared a mistrial last week.
Prosecutors said at a hearing Wednesday that they’ll continue pressing the murder charge against Travis Ricci in the 2009 shooting death of Kelly Ann Jaeger.
Authorities say Ricci intended to shoot Jaeger’s boyfriend, who is black, but instead fired fatal shotgun blasts at Jaeger, who is white.
Ricci is accused of angrily yelling racial slurs at Jaeger’s boyfriend and harassing him over dating a white woman in an exchange in a north Phoenix park.
Prosecutors said Ricci left the scene to get a shotgun, returned in a sedan driven by an associate and fired two shots as Jaeger and her boyfriend stood near a pay phone.
Superior Court Judge Dean Fink declared the mistrial after a witness, in response to a question from a prosecutor, made a reference to Ricci spending time in prison, said Amanda Jacinto, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Ricci.
Ricci pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have raised questions about the ability of Jaeger’s boyfriend, Jeffery Wellmaker, to identify him as the triggerman. They note that nearly two years after the attack, Wellmaker was jailed in an unrelated case and played chess with Ricci behind bars without recognizing him.
Aaron Levi Schmidt, who authorities say was driving a car used in the shooting, pleaded guilty to murder in Jaeger’s death.
Lawyers for Ricci and Schmidt, both now 36, have said their clients weren’t members of the Vinlanders.
In an unrelated crime months after Jaeger’s shooting death, police say Ricci stabbed two men who tried to stop him from attacking his girlfriend. He is serving a 22-year sentence for assault and weapons misconduct convictions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.