August 27, 1997 in Nation/World

Affair Lands Dibartolo Back In Jail Cops Say He Had Contact With Potential Witness

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Accused murderer Tom DiBartolo is back behind bars for allegedly violating a court order by continuing a relationship with his girlfriend.

The former sheriff’s deputy turned himself in about 3 p.m. Tuesday after learning a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Undercover detectives armed with videocameras have been trailing DiBartolo for the past two months. They say he had daily contact with Christine Ritchie, a potential prosecution witness in his upcoming murder trial.

DiBartolo, 42, is scheduled to stand trial Oct. 20. He is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of his wife of 19 years, Patty. She was shot in the head last November in Spokane’s Lincoln Park.

Prosecutors say Ritchie is one of two women with whom DiBartolo had affairs prior to the murder.

He and Ritchie resumed contact a few weeks after an order was signed in April prohibiting contact by DiBartolo with 26 potential witnesses, detectives said.

That order was part of four pages of conditions imposed on DiBartolo’s release from the Spokane County Jail on $125,000 cash bail.

Questioned this week by police, Ritchie said she and DiBartolo knowingly violated the no-contact order, according to an affidavit detectives filed Tuesday in Superior Court.

Ritchie told officers DiBartolo accepted the risk because “she was worth it,” according to the affidavit.

Undercover officers began tracking DiBartolo’s movements in June, after workers at a Valley auto dealership reported seeing the couple switching cars and parking their vehicles away from regular traffic areas.

According to the affidavit, Ritchie frequently met DiBartolo after work, then drove to his home in Medical Lake.

The affidavit also says she admitted to having essentially “moved in with Tom.”

On weekends, detectives said “she does not go outside and hides in the bedroom whenever the doorbell rings and visitors arrive.”

When DiBartolo’s attorney, Maryann Moreno, called Tuesday to advise him of the warrant, she said he acted “surprised and startled.”

Moreno said it’s common court practice to order a defendant to have no contact with potential prosecution witnesses.

“The order is there to prevent any defendant from trying to change a witness’s testimony,” she said.

Moreno will be in court today to oppose a request by county prosecutors to keep DiBartolo in jail until his trial.

At the hearing, Judge Neal Rielly has three choices:

He may decide DiBartolo’s alleged contact with Ritchie didn’t violate his release conditions, in which case DiBartolo would be set free.

He could decide the contact with Ritchie violates his release conditions. That could lead to DiBartolo remaining in jail until his trial.

Or Rielly could modify the bond conditions - the least likely option.

Detectives say DiBartolo killed his wife with her own gun, then wounded himself with the revolver in an attempt to cover up the crime.

DiBartolo has maintained his innocence, claiming robbers attacked his 39-year-old wife and him.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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