Man sentenced to 20 years in murder-for-hire attempt

From prison, Ralph Manna tried to enlist the help of an undercover police officer as part of a plot to kill his ex-wife and their son


Ralph Manna gunned down his ex-wife's friend and shot two more people, and that wasn't enough. He later tried to have his ex-wife and their son killed from his prison cell.

But appearing in federal court in Baltimore yesterday to be sentenced for trying to hire a hit man, Manna said he doesn't understand why his family still considers him a pariah.

"I'm glad to see you, Barbara and Raymond," he said, turning around to face his ex-wife and their son, now an FBI agent. "I wish Raymond would stop having this grudge for nine years, whatever it is."

"Ray, can't you look at me?"

The rambling plea to his family left cold U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, who described the 67-year-old Manna as hopelessly lost in a "Shakespearean drama." The judge sentenced Manna - already serving a life sentence for murder - to the maximum of 20 years in prison for trying to kill his family.

"We're just incidental bystanders," said Quarles, who ordered Manna to address his comments to the bench and not to his family. "Unfortunately, his children are just props."

Quarles ordered Manna's federal sentence to be served consecutively with his life sentence for the 1997 murder. He also recommended that Manna be moved from a federal prison immediately because of security concerns.

After a four-day trial in August, a jury convicted Manna of trying to hire, from his prison cell, an undercover police officer to kill his ex-wife and son.

According to evidence presented at trial, Manna solicited another inmate to assist him in hiring someone to commit the murders. On Oct. 17, 2003, Manna met in prison with an undercover officer posing as a hit man and provided him with information to carry out a murder for hire.

prosecutors said Manna, the one-time owner of a lime-spreading business, tried to retaliate against his ex-wife and son because he blamed them for the couple's divorce and their subsequent cooperation in the 1997 murder case against him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Johnston asked Quarles for the maximum sentence, calling Manna "a vengeful, spiteful person."

Before the murder, Manna had abused his wife and had been ordered to stay away from her, court records show.

He was later convicted of the January 1997 killing of 53-year-old Linda Delauter, a friend of his ex-wife's, and the attempted murder of Linda Grossnickle, 45, in and around Wolfsville. The same night, police said he also broke into the Waynesboro, Pa., home of Richard and Candace Sanchez and shot the man four times with a .45-caliber pistol.

Manna told police at the time that despite drinking about a fifth of tequila he remembered driving to the Delauter home and firing the gun.

But he could not remember being stopped along Interstate 70, being approached by police or being bitten by a police dog when he reached for his handgun while being arrested a short time later.

In a statement to state police, Manna said he had done "a bad thing. I shot Richard and I murdered Linda."

He told police he was lonely after his wife left him and a relationship with Sanchez ended. He said he was upset that Grossnickle encouraged his wife to leave him.

Manna told police he would "like to be put to sleep. ... A lethal injection or whatever, for whatever I did. And I'd like to forget all of this court stuff and just get it over with."

In court yesterday, Manna said he took his wife and sons on fun family trips. He coached a Little League team for his boys even though he didn't like baseball.

"Why would I want to hurt my family?" he asked, arguing he never intended to kill them. "When you do one thing bad, they forget all of the other things."

But for Ray Manna, married with two sons of his own, his father's account of an idyllic life could not stand without challenge. Dressed in a dark suit with an American flag pin attached to his lapel, his voice remained steady as he described the horror of living in fear of his father.

"It's his sole desire ... to get back to those who helped my mother," Ray Manna testified yesterday.

In an earlier letter to a judge presiding over his father's murder trial, Ray Manna worried about his family's fate.

Ralph Manna's "behavior indicates he has unfinished business and intends to continue his efforts to retaliate," the son wrote seven years ago.

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