One of Montgomery County’s oldest unsolved rape cases came to a conclusion Friday after a judge sentenced Richard Eugene Ricketts for a rape that he committed 36 years ago.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann sentenced Ricketts to life in prison - and an additional 50 years - for the crime.
A jury found him guilty of first-degree rape and two counts of sexual assault in February. The rape and sexual assault took place on Oct. 24, 1977, when Ricketts was 29 and his victim was 25.
In trial, Ricketts’ victim said she heard footsteps behind her while she was walking from her car to her home on Congressional Lane in Rockville at around 10 p.m.
Then, a man grabbed her, threw her to the ground, and raped her.
“I was afraid for my life,” she told the jury in February.
She couldn’t remember his face, she testified, just his “orange red ski-type sweater, in my face.”
After the initial investigation, the case languished for years, becoming one of the oldest unsolved cases on file in Montgomery County’s Cold Case Squad, one detective said in trial.
Detectives tracked down Ricketts during an effort to clear some of the unit’s unsolved rape cases. They compared evidence collected from the 1977 case against national sex offender registries, and found that it matched Ricketts, now 64, who was serving time in Florida for a burglary and rape.
“This verdict and sentence shows that you cannot outrun the long arm of the law, thank goodness, for the DNA database,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said, of McGann’s sentence.
Authorities in Florida had collected DNA from Ricketts while investigating the 1999 case there.
Theresa Chernosky, who was defending Ricketts, told Judge McGann, “I think there is definitely good parts in Mr. Ricketts.” She asked the judge to issue a sentence that would permit Ricketts to leave prison at a later point in his life.
She said that Ricketts had seen his father try to sexually assault a woman, which profoundly impacted him.
Ricketts told McGann that during his teenage years, he had to leave the foster family with whom he had been living and return to living with his father, which caused him to develop a character that was “not too good.”
The judge who forced him to return home to his father when he was a teenager told him,“I would stop this if I could, but I can’t,” Ricketts said, choking up.
“If I’d had a father like you, I’d have been alright ... I’m not trying to kiss your rear end,” Ricketts told McGann.
But he remained mostly unrepentant about the rape that he had been accused of, a point Assistant State’s Attorney Christina Rodriguez noted, in asking for the life sentence.
Dressed in a green jumpsuit, thick glasses, and supporting himself with a cane, Ricketts told Judge McGann that doctors in Florida had already issued him with a death sentence.
They had told him he would die in prison due to his poor health.
“If you give me life, I know how to do it... to accept it,” he told McGann.