Riggins takes 5th under oath Spouse won't discuss activities on day his wife disappeared

November 20, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Paul Stephen Riggins, acknowledging for the first time that he is a suspect in the possible homicide of his wife, is refusing to answer under oath questions about his activities on the day that the Elkridge woman disappeared last summer.

In a deposition taken Oct. 29, Riggins invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on dozens of questions about the disappearance of his wife, Nancy Lee Riggins, who was last seen at a Columbia pool July 1.

In refusing to answer these questions, according to a transcript of that deposition, he said repeatedly from a written statement: "Upon advice of counsel, I am invoking the Fifth Amendment privilege because I am the target of a homicide investigation and any response I give may tend to incriminate me."

Howard County police say the disappearance is suspicious because Nancy Riggins left her purse, credit cards, car, keys and 5-year-old daughter, Amanda -- a child born prematurely and the only child doctors said she could ever have.

But police won't comment on whether Stephen Riggins, as he is known by family and friends, is a suspect in her disappearance.

A truck driver who still is living in the Elkridge home he shared with his wife, Stephen Riggins would not return phone calls from a reporter yesterday.

Nor would his attorney, Howard E. Goldman of Laurel.

Riggins told The Sun last summer that he was "like everybody else. I just want to know where my wife is."

The Oct. 29 deposition was taken as part of a custody battle over Amanda between Stephen Riggins and his wife's parents in New Castle, Pa., who have temporary custody of the child.

Bernard J. Sachs, an attorney representing Nancy Riggins' parents in that case, says he recently mailed a motion to Howard County Circuit Court to compel Stephen Riggins to answer questions about his activities at the time the Elkridge woman vanished.

As of late yesterday, that motion had not been added to the court record.

"He's not shouting from the rooftops that his wife is missing," Sachs said. "This is a very unusual case. We're doing whatever we can to get to the bottom of the matter."

A hearing in the child-custody case is scheduled Friday.

In his deposition, Stephen Riggins affirmed that his wife was "a fit and proper person to be a mother to Amanda" -- although he initially refused to answer the question, invoking the Fifth Amendment.

He also used the Fifth Amendment in not answering questions about what he told his daughter and what she asked him the morning her mother was missing, and about his whereabouts the day before his wife disappeared and the day his wife was missing.

Riggins argued in the deposition that he should retain permanent custody of Amanda because, he said, his in-laws "both have bad health, deteriorating health. They're too old to be raising her."

Amanda has been living with her grandparents, Robert and Delia Cunningham, at their home in New Castle -- a steel and coal mining town about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh -- since the week her mother disappeared.

Stephen Riggins told police that when he arrived home shortly after 6 a.m. July 2, he found his daughter sleeping and his wife missing, police have said. He didn't report it to police until July 3.

According to records obtained by The Sun yesterday from his previous employer, much of Stephen Riggins' time the week that his wife disappeared was spent working -- 51 hours, according to his work time sheet.

At the time of his wife's disappearance, Riggins was working for P & D Trucking Co., an Elkridge firm that employees 18 people, said Donna Vonella, owner of P & D Trucking.

The trucking company hired Riggins to work a job at the Patapsco Waste Water Treatment Plant in Southwest Baltimore, for which the Elkridge firm had a subcontract, Vonella said.

Riggins' job was to fill trucks with processed waste from two 900,000 gallon tanks in one area of the plant and drive them outside the facility, where they would be picked up for transport to a landfill, said Vonella and a supervisor at the waste-water plant, John Magazeno.

On the night shift, Riggins worked the site with one supervisor and a security guard.

The day that his wife was last seen, Riggins worked a 12-hour shift -- beginning 6 p.m. July 1 and ending 6 a.m. July 2, according to his time sheet. The next work day, he put in seven hours, from 6 p.m. July 2 to 1 a.m. July 3. The times were slightly different from his normal schedule, which was 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., Vonella said.

Riggins worked for P & D Trucking from May 20 until Aug. 2, when he left to find another job because his hours were going to be reduced, the result of cutbacks at the plant, Vonella said.

"All I can tell you is that we did not notice anything unusual or strange," she said. "He did his job. He did it in a satisfactory manner because we had no complaints about him."

In the motion to compel Stephen Riggins to answer questions about his wife's disappearance in the child-custody case, Sachs alleges that Stephen Riggins has attempted to sell some of Nancy and Amanda Riggins' personal property and that he expresses no grief over the disappearance of his wife.

The custody case began Aug. 28, when the Cunninghams filed for permanent custody of their granddaughter. In that filing, they alleged that Stephen Riggins was suspected by police of murder in the disappearance of his wife, that he had been found to have abused Amanda by the Howard County Department of Social Services and that he has had an affair with Amanda's teen-age baby sitter, court records show.

In response, Stephen Riggins filed a court document denying the allegation involving the baby sitter, but neither confirming nor denying that he had been found to have abused Amanda and that he was suspected of murder in the disappearance of his wife.

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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