Missing woman's friends turn to TV 'Geraldo' will focus on Nancy Riggins

February 20, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Laura Lane and Tina Leisher cannot bear the idea of Nancy Riggins -- their 38-year-old co-worker missing since last summer -- fading from the public's memory.

On Wednesday, the women will travel to New York City to be guests on "The Geraldo Rivera Show" -- hoping that their appearance on the controversial talk show will keep alive attention about the Elkridge woman's case.

"This is our first opportunity to tell her story nationwide," said Lane, who worked as a cashier with Leisher and Riggins for eight years at the Burtonsville Giant Food store in Montgomery County.

"Maybe we'll find out if anyone knows something if they see her picture or hear us talk about her," she said.

Emily Barsh, producer of "The Geraldo Rivera Show," which airs locally on WJZ, Channel 13, weekdays at 10 a.m., found out about the Riggins case while researching stories for a show about missing women who are believed to be dead.

Besides the Riggins case, guests on this episode of Rivera's program -- which will air next month -- will talk about Anne Marie Fahey, Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper's 30-year-old scheduling secretary who disappeared in June after having dinner with a prominent Wilmington attorney, and Susan Walsh, a free-lance journalist who vanished last summer while investigating a story about sadomasochistic vampires in New York City.

"The stories of these three women got kicked to the back corner last year by bigger stories like JonBenet [Ramsey], O.J. [Simpson] and [Bill] Cosby's son being shot," Barsh said. "We wanted to do a show where we could ask the viewers to call in if they had any information about these women who have vanished."

Barsh said Riggins' story is compelling because "her friends and family were so devoted and so relentless in finding out what happened to her. That makes good television."

Last seen at pool

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

Stephen Riggins, as he is known to family and friends, did not report his wife's disappearance to police until the morning of July 3. According to court documents, Riggins, 39, has acknowledged that he is a suspect in the possible homicide of his wife. Howard County police have classified the case as a missing-person incident.

Since Nancy Riggins' disappearance, her family, friends, co-workers and Howard County police have tried to keep the case in the public eye by handing out fliers with her photograph and erecting a 12-foot-high, 42-foot-wide billboard on U.S. 1, just north of Route 100 in Elkridge.

Huge color photo

The billboard is plastered with a 141-square-foot color photo of Nancy Riggins coupled with the word "MISSING" in bold red letters and a telephone number to contact county police.

Officials at Giant Food, which helped pay for the billboard, said it will stay up indefinitely.

Sgt. Steven Keller, a police spokesman, said the investigation into Nancy Riggins' disappearance is still very much alive. "Obviously, her disappearance is very suspicious," he said. "But the case is still open."

Stephen Riggins was arrested Feb. 4 and charged with having sex with his daughter's underage baby sitter. He was released from jail after posting $10,000 bail.

Police said the affair between Riggins and the baby sitter began in 1992, about the time of the girl's 15th birthday.

Riggins was arrested again Feb. 6 and charged with stealing clothing from trucks headed for J. C. Penney when he worked as a driver for an Elkridge trucking company, a job he has since lost.

That arrest came the day after Riggins was allowed by a judge to have strictly regulated monthly visits with his daughter, who has been staying with Nancy Riggins' parents since her mother disappeared in July.

Assured by producers

Lane and Leisher said they have been assured by producers that their appearance on the Rivera program, which often has been characterized as the prototype of trash talk-show television, will not focus on the sensational aspects of the case.

"We're not going to talk about the baby sitter and all that stuff," Lane said. "We're doing this in an effort to get national attention about Nancy's case because the police haven't found a body, and we want to have enough information about her disappearance to gain a conviction in court."

Leisher said appearing on the talk show will give Nancy Riggins' friends a chance to tell everyone what kind of person she was, and how much they all miss her.

"Nancy was our rock, and we're just driven to find her," Leisher said. "We need help finding her, and we'll take any avenue available to us."

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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