Several weeks before he was shot to death, Ronald Ruse Jr. discussed with a close friend how he might best protect himself if confronted by Linda Ricchio, his former girlfriend who had threatened to kill him because he had spurned her, according to courtroom testimony Tuesday.
Ray Hieronymus, a high school friend of Ruse’s in Escondido who has moved to Arkansas, testified at Ricchio’s preliminary hearing in Vista that Ricchio told him she wanted to kill Ruse and that he then called Ruse to notify him.
Hieronymus said Ricchio began her phone call to him by blurting out obscenities and saying “she was going to blow . . . (him) away, that she was tired of this. . . . She said she had a gun and was going to blow him away. “I said, ‘Whoa, let’s calm down and talk about it’ because she was making a threat. She said she was going to blow him away and then kill herself. She said she felt used, that she put a lot of years in with him and couldn’t understand why he was not seeing her and was avoiding her phone calls.”
Hieronymus said he reached Ruse by phone the next day, Nov. 9, and warned him “he’d better watch it.”
“He (Ruse) was scared,” Hieronymus testified. “I told him, ‘Buddy, she’s got a gun and you’d better be careful.’ ”
A few days later, Ruse called him back.
“He said, ‘Ray, if she’s got a gun and goes at me, and I get it and I shoot her, can I go to jail?’ And I said, ‘Ron, that sounds like self-defense to me.’
“He was more worried about going to jail than getting shot.
“I told him, ‘If you see her, try to get close to her--close the gap--and don’t let her get to you. That’s self-defense. Don’t let her get to you. Don’t let her get into her purse. He said, ‘Well, yeah.’ ”
Ruse was fatally shot twice in the chest outside his second-floor apartment in Carlsbad the evening of Dec. 14. Ricchio turned herself in to Oceanside police a few minutes later after calling the 911 emergency number from a pay phone.
In a recording of her call to police that was played Tuesday for Municipal Judge Michael Burley, Ricchio could be heard sobbing.
After asking the 911 operator to send police to her location, she said, “Um, I shot a person,” and then, while crying, identified her victim as Ruse.
Oceanside Police Officers Shirley Unger and Thomas Lundgren arrived at the scene a few minutes later and placed Ricchio in handcuffs. Lundgren said that as he approached Ricchio, she held her hands up to surrender. “She said she had just shot someone in Carlsbad,” he said.
Unger said Ricchio asked from the back seat of the patrol car: “Do you know if he’s OK? I just hope Ron’s OK. My parents raised me better than this.”
A .38-caliber revolver was found in Ricchio’s car.
Jack Earley, one of two attorneys representing Ricchio, said after Tuesday’s testimony that he is still framing his client’s defense.
“The question is obviously one of intent,” he said. “We’re looking if there are elements of heat of passion, self-defense or sudden quarrel. It is significant that the thought (by Ruse of self-defense) was in his mind.”
The preliminary hearing, to determine whether Ricchio, 27, should be bound over for trial in Superior Court, is expected to be completed today with testimony about forensic findings at the crime scene, including from what distance Ruse was shot. Such information might indicate whether the two were struggling or whether he was shot from afar.
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Ricchio and Ruse had been in a relationship for more than seven years, and had lived together for more than five, before breaking up in 1986. Several people testified Monday and Tuesday that Ricchio was bitter that Ruse had dropped her and had threatened to kill him.
Among Tuesday’s witnesses was Mary Cate, Ricchio’s mother, who, according to police reports, said her daughter told her she had purchased a gun and wanted to shoot her ex-boyfriend.
On the stand, however, Cate said she either didn’t make those comments to homicide detectives or couldn’t recall making them.
Though there were no witnesses to the shooting, a woman who lived directly beneath Ruse at the Jefferson Street complex testified Tuesday that she heard five gunshots.
Janet Bates said she then heard Ruse calling for help. “He was banging and yelling, ‘Janet, let me in!’ He came in and said, ‘I just took two shots to the heart.’ He collapsed by the dining room table.”
She said she comforted him, then called 911. “He told me, ‘Thank you for calling for help.’ Those were the last words he spoke to me.”
Ruse was taken by Life Flight to Palomar Memorial Hospital in Escondido, where he died.