Marsy’s Law For Montana Can Save Lives – Debra Ricci’s Story

It was starting to drizzle rain when Terry carried Patty’s badly beaten and unconscious body to the shallow grave he’d dug for her. He threw her body in the grave and returned to their house. She regained consciousness, was able to claw her way out of the grave and crawl to her car, in which, miraculously, she’d left her keys and cell phone.

He chased her on foot at first, then raced back to his truck and pursued her in a high-speed chase down a dirt road between Victor and Hamilton. She met law enforcement who responded to her 911 call along the way. Terry was arrested and he spent one night in jail before bonding out the next day.

The Ravalli County Attorney agreed with Patty to charge him with Felony Partner/Family Member Assault, and Assault with a Deadly Weapon with Intent to do Permanent Damage. But later, without telling Patty, the county attorney agreed to a plea that dropped the more serious crime. He was set free, and he continued to stalk her and threaten to murder her until he was caught with marijuana and a meth pipe. Now he’s in prison.

Patty and I weren’t friends at the time this happened. We didn’t even know each other. But we shared something terrible in common that brought us together. You see, Terry tried to murder me a decade earlier in Missoula after I ended our relationship.

I too was saved by a frantic, last-minute 911 call after he broke into my home and attacked me. He had strangled me unconscious when the police broke my door down, subdued him, and arrested him. A few minutes later and I would be dead.

He was charged with Attempted Deliberate Homicide. I thought that was the end of it.  I thought he was in prison and I’d never have to see him again. What I didn’t know at the time was that he had worked out a plea deal with the Missoula County prosecutor that let him off with a few months jail time. This dangerous predator was free to find his next victim. He found Patty.

If Montana had had Marsy’s Law I believe Patty would never have met him and he wouldn’t have been allowed to end her life as she knew it. Under Marsy’s Law, the prosecutor in my case couldn’t have negotiated a plea agreement without my knowledge; nor would the prosecutor in Patty’s case.

Under Marsy’s Law, we would have had the right to be heard by the court and we would have told them what a dangerous predator this man is.

Under Marsy’s Law, I would have been notified when Terry was released from custody.  I would have known he was loose and that my life, and other women’s lives, were in danger.

Crime victims in Montana deserve to have equal rights with individuals accused crimes. That is why it is so important for us to pass Marsy’s Law for Montana, CI-116.

Marsy’s Law is a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights that will ensure victims are better protected, better informed and better involved in the criminal justice process.

I can tell you firsthand how big a difference Marsy’s Law would have made for me as a victim of a horrible, violent crime. I believe it could have helped me prevent the crimes against Patty from happening.

I’m forever grateful to the Missoula police who saved my life, and to the Hamilton police who saved Patty’s. Marsy’s Law will save future lives by helping to keep repeat violent offenders off the streets. Please, vote yes for CI-116.