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Butler County wife killer seeks new trial

Chuck Biedka
| Thursday, July 28, 2011

A former Buffalo Township man is waiting to learn whether a judge will give him a new trial or whether he will continue to serve a life sentence for murder.

Michael Ricksgers, now 54, was convicted of shooting his 31-year-old wife, Janet, to death on Dec. 26, 1993 in their trailer along Silverville Road.

At trial, Ricksgers' legal team said he suffered from sleep apnea and accidentally shot his wife.

Janet Ricksgers was hit once in her back by a single .357-caliber bullet.

Michael Ricksgers was convicted of first-degree murder on Nov. 18, 1995, and has been in state prison since.

Through his new court-appointed attorney, Ricksgers is alleging that he didn't have sufficient representation at trial and wasn't told that prosecutors were offering a lesser charge if he pleaded guilty, said defense attorney Edith Lynn Sutton of Butler.

Butler County Judge William Shaffer is reviewing case documents and testimony from a July 21 hearing with evidence presented by Sutton and Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger.

Sutton now claims Ricksgers didn't have a prior record and wouldn't have shot his wife because he was previously divorced. "He knew he could have done that. He wouldn't have shot her when he could have divorced her," Sutton said.

Also, if Ricksgers had accepted a plea to third-degree murder, "he would already be out of prison," she pointed out.

The district attorney said he had known Ricksgers' legal team of Irv Green and Louis Ceraso of New Kensington. "He had good representation," Goldinger said. Green and Ceraso have both died.

If Ricksgers' appeal is denied by Judge Shaffer, Sutton said she will file an appeal to Superior Court.

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