Youth guilty in fatal crash placed in juvenile center

May 19, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

On trial for automobile manslaughter last month, the teen-ager with the nickname "Satan" showed no remorse. The victims' family seethed. When the boy turned to them and smiled at his sentencing hearing yesterday, they were outraged.

Then, minutes before being committed to a juvenile detention facility, he displayed a change in attitude. Shown a picture of Victor and Mary Ridder, the New Rochelle, N.Y., couple he killed last October, the 17-year-old Severn boy cried.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to express any emotion but that's just the type of person I am," he said. "I'm sorry for any tragedies that occurred."

The boy, dressed for court in a purple suit, said he'd like to apologize to the Ridders' friends and family -- one-by-one. He said he'd be willing to talk to newly licensed teen-age drivers about the perils of speeding.

And about that nickname of his. That came from a time when his goatee and widow's peak made him look like the cartoon mascot of the Duke University Blue Devils and nothing more sinister, he told the judge. The youth, who was ordered held last month after being found delinquent on two counts of automobile manslaughter and on charges of speeding and reckless and negligent driving, said he just wanted to go home.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner noted the change in demeanor, but told the boy he would go along with recommendations from juvenile authorities that he be committed to the Charles Hickey School near Towson.

"It didn't appear to me you took this matter so seriously as you do today," the judge said. "I find it so serious that I can't see you going home today and subjecting the community to this kind of activity.

"Here we have two very fine, upstanding people in the community and their lives have been taken from them by a senseless, stupid operation."

The boy faces the possibility of commitment to the juvenile detention facility until he turns 21.

During the hearing yesterday, Victor L. Ridder Jr. and his wife, Mary Ridder, were lauded for their active roles in the Roman Catholic Church in New Rochelle. A priest from the New York Archdiocese was one of about a dozen friends and family members who drove from New York for the hearing. Other family members came from Norfolk, Va., and Washington.

Victor Ridder, who was 49 when he was killed, was president of The Catholic News Publishing Co., which published the now-defunct Catholic News until 1981 and continues to print a directory of priests and a guide to church organizations in nine dioceses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He had organized a Scout troop for homeless boys in New York City, a relative said.

Mary Ridder, who died at 48, was the social minister for a church parish and was a patient advocate at two Catholic hospitals in the Bronx.

Cardinal John J. O'Connor of the New York Archdiocese was among the 1,500 mourners at the Ridders' funeral.

Both were killed when a 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity driven by the Severn boy crossed the median strip on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, just inside the Anne Arundel County border with Baltimore, entered the northbound lane and crashed head-on into the couple's late-model Lincoln Continental.

A driver on the parkway testified that the car driven by the youth passed him at about 90 mph just minutes before the crash.

After the sentencing, the Ridder couple's children talked about the Severn boy's contrition and hoped it was genuine.

Son Mark Ridder, 15, who had his doubts, said, "When he looked back at me and smiled I couldn't believe it."

Daughter Maureen Ridder, 22, said, "We just wanted to know he cared about what he did."

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