Elkridge man gets life in prison for killing his long-missing wife

November 30, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Calling his crime "diabolical," a Howard County judge sentenced Paul Stephen Riggins, the Elkridge man convicted of killing his long-missing wife, to life in prison yesterday.

Before imposing the sentence and with crying friends of Nancy Lee Riggins huddled on courtroom benches, Judge Lenore R. Gelfman noted that the killing left the couple's only child, Amanda, who turns 11 tomorrow, without either parent - and friends and family without a grave to visit.

"The family has no place to mourn, no sense of closure," she said.

The sentence will allow Riggins, 44, to seek parole after he serves 15 years. He has served 435 days since his arrest Sept. 21 last year. Riggins was convicted of first-degree murder July 20.

Prosecutors said yesterday that the decision not to seek life without the possibility of parole was a strategic one made in the hopes that Stephen Riggins, faced one day with trying to persuade the governor and other state officials to release him, might admit guilt - and tell investigators where he put his wife's body. Riggins has maintained his innocence.

Unlike the trial that preceded it in July, yesterday's sentencing served almost as an anti-climax for a case that served up daily drama during the nine days of testimony - from Stephen Riggins' affair with the family's baby-sitter to his attempts to explain his wife's absence in the days and weeks after he reported her missing from their Elkridge home July 3, 1996.

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