Pennsylvania Woman Gets 30 to 60 Years for Bathtub Burning Death of Mentally Disabled Man
BUTLER, Pa. – A woman was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison in the death of a mentally disabled man who prosecutors say was forced to wear a T-shirt soaked in lighter fluid and was then set on fire in a bathtub.
Melissa Adams, 25, of Butler, pleaded guilty this month to third-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Jason Michael Ritzert, whose body was found burned beyond recognition in a trash bin in 2005.
Prosecutors had charged Adams with first-degree murder and were seeking the death penalty before the plea deal.
Two men previously pleaded guilty in the case. Timothy James Caldwell, 30, is serving a life term in prison after pleading guilty in March to first-degree murder, and Russell Hilliard, 36, pleaded guilty in May to third-degree murder and faces sentencing Oct. 23.
Ritzert was forced to wear the lighter fluid-soaked T-shirt and was set on fire as he lay in a bathtub, police said. After Ritzert lost consciousness, Caldwell kicked him and put his foot on Ritzert's chest and neck for five to 10 minutes, police said. The defendants then took Ritzert's body to a trash bin, where they set it on fire, police said.
Adams on Wednesday asked Ritzert's family to forgive her.
Authorities said Caldwell and Adams tortured and killed Ritzert, who lived with them, because they thought he was stealing money, and Hilliard was accused of burning and torturing the man.