Apart from for a couple boxes stuffed with goods accumulated over the several years, the business house before long to be vacated by Chief Assistant Point out Lawyer Ric Ridgway is just about vacant.
A fixture at the Condition Attorney’s Business office for the 5th Judicial Circuit — which covers Marion, Lake, Sumter, Citrus and Hernando counties — Ridgway has been a good friend, a shoulder to lean on, a mentor and an all-about pal to the adult men and women of all ages who prosecute situations in those people counties.
“He’s a single of the most outstanding lawful minds I have at any time regarded,” stated Assistant Point out Lawyer Abundant Buxman, a colleague who has attempted cases with Ridgway.
With more than 4 a long time as a lawyer below his belt, Ridgway, 69, has determined it truly is time to retire from the prosecutor’s office environment. His very last day was Wednesday.
Ridgway explained he usually tell prosecutors that this is the best occupation you can have. It enables them “to do the correct matters for the proper factors.” The veteran prosecutor stated he enjoys coaching and teaching younger legal professionals, calling it “gratifying and challenging.”
Born in Alabama, Ridgway and his family moved to just exterior Atlanta when he was 11. The family then moved to Fort Lauderdale when he was 14 and he attended higher school in that area.
Ridgway went to law college and was in the course of 1978 from the College of Miami. He went to get the job done at the Point out Attorney’s Business in Fort Lauderdale right up until 1982, when he bought a connect with from former Assistant State Legal professional Jim Phillips asking him to appear perform in the 5th Judicial Circuit. Phillips advised Ridgway they have been seeking for an practical experience prosecutor to check out occupation criminal conditions.
“I was weary of residing in Fort Lauderdale,” Ridgway reported.
He took Phillips up on his present and moved to Marion County. Ridgway claimed when he arrived in 1982 there were only seven lawyers, including himself, doing the job at the SAO. Now there are 60 legal professionals in the Marion County place of work on your own.
Ridgway 1st worked less than Point out Attorney Gordon Oldham, then Ray Gill. Ridgway agreed to be Brad King‘s campaign manager, which meant he had to resign. So Ridgway still left and turned staff members attorney at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office below then-Sheriff Don Mooreland.
When King was elected and took place of work in 1989, Ridgway remaining the Sheriff’s Office and grew to become King’s chief assistant — a occupation he has held at any time since.
King claimed he and Ridgway have worked alongside one another since Ridgway came to Marion County. He mentioned Ridgway is just one of the greatest demo legal professionals he has ever viewed. King stated Ridgway is like an encyclopedia he teaches trial approach and appreciates the regulation.
King, who has been state legal professional given that he was first elected in 1988, also is retiring. He said Ridgway is a good person who keeps anyone laughing.
“I am heading to pass up remaining all around him every single working day,” King mentioned.
Remaining chief assistant state legal professional is a massive duty. It usually means, amongst other issues, becoming an administrator for five counties, with a lot more than 100 attorneys and employees staff members. Ridgway also need to check in on law enforcement organizations all over the circuit and deal with media relations.
He also occasionally takes on high-profile or complex instances.
All through his time at the SAO, Ridgway remembers some of the circumstances he and other regulation enforcement companies have collaborated on for effective convictions.
Just one was the murder of Betty Anne Smolka. Ridgway reported Smolka and her partner, a lawyer name Thomas Smolka, came to Marion County and her husband bought and later owned a resort off Point out Road 40. Smolka’s spouse disappeared and her physique was later on observed alongside SR 40.
Ridgway stated he worked closely on that case with then-Sgt. Greg Graham, who went on to turn out to be Ocala police main and died lately in a aircraft crash. He explained the two worked tirelessly for a calendar year and a fifty percent. Smolka’s spouse was arrested for the murder. While he was convicted, an appeals court docket overturned the selection, Ridgway mentioned.
Then there was the Wayside Antiques murder, wherever a few was discovered useless and handcuffed to a risk-free. Approximately a fifty percent a million dollars truly worth of jewellery and antiques ended up lacking, Ridgway said.
Ridgway mentioned he worked with Leo Smith, now a retired Marion County deputy, and numerous other regulation enforcement organizations these types of as the FBI and Interpol to capture the killer or killers. He reported the case took him and regulation enforcement officials to multiple states ahead of two adult males were arrested.
He said the gentlemen have been at the county jail, in which they escaped then re-captured. He reported equally pleaded responsible and died in prison.
Ridgway also aided prosecute serial killer Aileen Wuornos and John Evander Couey, who was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford in Citrus County. Both equally Wuornos and Couey are now dead.
Incoming State Lawyer Bunwell Gladson calls Ridgway one of the smartest folks he has at any time identified whose photographic memory, knowledge as a attorney and consideration to facts are incredible.
Gladson claimed Ridgway’s information of the law is a big asset to prosecutors. He said Ridgway is normally obtainable and offered to everyone, and is always there to help.
“Every time you require him, he is normally there,” Gladson explained.
The new point out legal professional has tapped Walter Forgie to change Ridgway as main assistant.
Ridgway explained his spouse has a long list of projects for him to do at dwelling, so he will continue to keep occupied. He also appears forward to paying out additional time with his two grandchildren.
He also has a boat that won’t get in the drinking water much, so he strategies to go fishing.
— Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, [email protected] or @almillerosb