Riggins charged with sex offense Police allege he was involved with teen baby sitter

February 05, 1997|By Jill Hudson and Ivan Penn | Jill Hudson and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Shanon D. Murray contributed to this article.

Paul Stephen Riggins Jr., under suspicion in the possible homicide of his wife who disappeared last July, was arrested yesterday morning and charged with having sex with his daughter's teen-age baby sitter, Howard County police said.

The 39-year-old Elkridge man, who lives in the home he shared with his wife in the 6100 block of Adcock Lane, was arrested about 9: 20 a.m. yesterday at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Business Parkway as he left his night-shift job at a Dorsey trucking company, said Sgt. Steven Keller, a police spokesman.

Keller said Riggins was charged with child abuse, two counts of fourth-degree sexual offense, one count of unnatural and perverted practices, assault, battery and furnishing alcohol to an underage person. He will have a bail review hearing today.

Nancy Riggins was last seen at a Columbia swimming pool on the evening of July 1. Her husband told police that when he arrived home about 6 a.m. July 2 from his job in Curtis Bay, he found his 5-year-old daughter, Amanda, sleeping and his wife missing.

Riggins did not report his wife missing until the morning of July 3.

In a deposition taken in late October as part of a child custody dispute over his daughter with his wife's parents, Riggins acknowledged that he is a suspect in the possible homicide of his wife. He invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on dozens of questions about Nancy Riggins' disappearance.

Police have termed the case suspicious because Nancy Riggins left behind her purse, credit cards, car, keys and Amanda, now 6, born prematurely and the only child doctors told her that she could ever have, according to her friends.

Keller said yesterday police are still treating Nancy Riggins' disappearance as a missing person investigation and would not say whether Stephen Riggins, as he is known by family and friends, is a suspect in her disappearance.

Nancy Riggins' parents, Robert and Delia Cunningham of New Castle, Pa., said Riggins' arrest on the sex charges was long overdue.

"We've been waiting for this moment," Delia Cunningham said in a phone interview yesterday. "We were almost at the breaking point. We still have not found Nancy."

Robert Cunningham added: "I would like to be at the jail right now, looking at him."

Riggins' attorney, Howard E. Goldman of Laurel, would not return phone calls from a reporter yesterday.

Amanda has been living with the Cunninghams in New Castle since her mother's disappearance. Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. gave the Cunninghams temporary custody of Amanda last summer, pending the case for permanent custody. A hearing in that case is scheduled tomorrow.

The Cunninghams say Amanda has been throwing tantrums since her mother's disappearance, because she doesn't understand what has happened. "She has a lot of anger," Robert Cunningham said.

Police allege that Riggins began a sexual relationship with the baby sitter in 1992, when she was 14 or 15 years old. The woman now is 19, police said.

At the woman's family home yesterday, a block from the Riggins house in Elkridge, a girl who identified herself as the woman's sister said that no one else was there and that she did not know anything about the charges.

But during an interview last summer with The Sun, the woman denied the alleged affair, saying "You have the wrong person." But neighbors and police sources say that the woman and Riggins continued to have a relationship after his wife's disappearance.

Howard police said they became aware of the relationship between the Riggins and the baby sitter while investigating Nancy Riggins' disappearance.

According to divorce records in Prince George's County Circuit Court, Stephen Riggins also was accused of having affairs during two prior marriages. One of his affairs led to a son, for whom he has been paying child support, court records show.

Stephen Riggins also has been cited by the Howard County Department of Social Services on allegations of child abuse against Amanda last year, according to a reference in court records in the child-custody case. Further details of that citation are not outlined in those court records or available from the social services agency.

The Cunninghams plan to come to Maryland today for tomorrow's child custody hearing, which will focus on visitation rights for Stephen Riggins and the disposition of Amanda's belongings -- most of which are still in the Rigginses' Elkridge home.

Bernard J. Sachs, an attorney representing the Cunninghams, said yesterday that while the family is "happy that Riggins has been arrested. We're still hoping and believe that the police will solve the mystery of what happened to her, and we still believe and hope that [Stephen] Riggins will someday be charged and convicted of murdering his wife."

Said Delia Cunningham: "We still maintain that Nancy did not leave on her own. She is not a missing person. She's a dead person. because Nancy would never, never leave that child."

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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