SALT LAKE CITY – The top potential suspect in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart is unlikely to ever regain consciousness, doctors said Friday.
Richard Ricci collapsed Tuesday night in his prison cell from a spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage and has irreversible injury to the brain stem, Dr. Richard Sperry said.
Ricci, 48, was not listed as brain dead because he can still breathe on his own, Sperry said.
"He is extremely unlikely to get any better," said Dr. Elaine Skalabrin, University of Utah Hospital's director of the Neuro Critical Care Unit.
Police have said the question of Ricci's survival looms large in the search for Elizabeth and the investigation into her abduction.
Ricci, a former handyman for the Smart family, has not been charged in the disappearance and has denied involvement. He was in prison for a parole violation.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse this week reaffirmed that Ricci remained at the top of the list of potential suspects in Elizabeth's abduction. However, investigators were no closer to finding the missing 14-year-old than they were on June 5, when a gunman took her from the bedroom she was sharing with her younger sister, Dinse said.
With Ricci's condition now, his family now must make the decision whether to maintain life support, hospital spokeswoman Anne Brillinger said. Ricci is breathing and could survive if life support is removed.
Ricci family spokeswoman Nancy Pomeroy said the family has yet to consider the question.
According to prison spokesman Jack Ford, if Ricci lives, he still will be considered a prisoner but will remain hospitalized at state expense. If he remains persistently vegetative, the Board of Pardons likely would consider whether to release him, Ford said.
On Friday, Elizabeth's family offered $3,000 rewards for information on who picked up Ricci when he left his white Jeep Cherokee at a repair shop on June 8, three days after the abduction, and information regarding a July 24 attempted break-in at the home of Elizabeth's aunt.
A $250,000 reward was posted in June for information leading to Elizabeth's safe recovery. A separate $25,000 reward was offered for information leading to finding Elizabeth or contributing to the arrest and conviction of her abductor. Neither has been claimed.