Gun Ordered Returned To Severn Man

Prosecutor To Fight Ruling On Weapon That Killed Boy

April 26, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County prosecutors say they will appeal a judge's order requiring them to return a shotgun used to kill an 11-year-old boy to its owner -- who is a convicted felon.

Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth yesterday ordered State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee to return the shotgun to Ronald Ruppert, 48, of Severn, who has said he wants it back for sentimental reasons. The 16-gauge shotgun is 40 years old.

In a juvenile court proceeding in December, the same judge acquitted Ruppert's son Donald, now 13, of second-degree murder in the 1995 death of sixth-grader Nicholas Pastore. The Old Mill Middle Schooler was shot in the chest while playing at the Ruppert home.

Rushworth ruled yesterday that he could see no legal basis to deprive Ronald Ruppert of a shotgun not being held as evidence and not an illegal product.

"I can't conceive of a situation, under due process, where the state would have the authority to just keep someone's property," Rushworth said.

Prosecutors, however, say returning the weapon, which police confiscated after the shooting in the Ruppert home, would violate federal laws prohibiting convicted felons from possessing firearms.

Kiessling said that after the acquittal, police asked Ruppert to submit to a check of his criminal background before they returned the weapon. When Ruppert refused, the state's attorney's office did its own check and found a 1990 conviction for child abuse.

"The Police Department could be violating federal law if it returns this gun to Mr. Ruppert," Kiessling said. "Mr. Ruppert was technically in violation of federal law on the day of the incident." Nicholas Pastore's parents filed a $2 million suit against Ronald Ruppert in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in September.

Paul F. Harris, Ruppert's lawyer, called the state's refusal to return the shotgun harassment.

"The state's attorney still has a sour grapes attitude over losing this [criminal] case," Harris said.

Weathersbee's spokeswoman, Kristin Riggin, said the office plans to appeal Rushworth's ruling to the Court of Special Appeals and to seek a court order to keep the shotgun in a Millersville police evidence storage locker while their appeal is pending.

Pub Date: 4/26/97

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