November 25, 1997 in Nation/World

Girlfriends Offer Possible Motive In Dibartolo Trial Children Also Testify Against Father Accused Of Murder

By The Spokesman-Review
 

In the first two weeks of Tom DiBartolo’s murder trial, prosecutors detailed glaring holes in stories he told police about his wife’s death.

On Monday, prosecutors offered jurors a motive for the killing by calling three of DiBartolo’s former girlfriends and two of his children to the witness stand.

Prosecutors hoped to show jurors that DiBartolo, 43, killed his wife because he was desperate to collect her insurance money and anxious to enjoy relationships with other women.

The three former girlfriends who testified Monday included Christine Ritchie, who acknowledged that DiBartolo had come over to her house the night of Patty DiBartolo’s funeral.

Ritchie, a medical secretary, told jurors she and DiBartolo started a sexual relationship in early 1995.

Before Patty DiBartolo’s death last Nov. 2, they talked about getting married after a divorce, Ritchie said.

When asked whether she knew DiBartolo, a former sheriff’s deputy, had been having affairs with other women when he was seeing her, Ritchie said she thought she was his only mistress.

Ritchie told jurors that DiBartolo got agitated and depressed when he talked about divorcing his wife of 19 years. With four children living at home, he told Ritchie he’d need to pay at least $800 a month in child support if he divorced.

“That would leave him a few hundred dollars (per month) left over,” she said he told her.

When she and DiBartolo talked about his divorce last November, he assured her it would come before long, Ritchie said.

“Patty had told him she was going to move to another house and take the kids that weekend,” Ritchie said.

Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser asked Ritchie what weekend she was talking about.

“That weekend of Nov. 2,” Ritchie answered.

Prosecutors say DiBartolo took his wife to Lincoln Park around 9 p.m. last Nov. 2, shot her with her own .38-caliber handgun, then wounded himself in the abdomen.

DiBartolo claims his wife was killed after two men approached them in the park, demanded money and took a gun from the glove box inside the couple’s van. DiBartolo says he struggled with the gunman before two shots were fired - one hitting Patty DiBartolo in the head, the other causing his superficial wound.

On Monday, DiBartolo’s 21-year-old stepdaughter, Michelle Robinson, took the stand and talked about her parents’ trips to Lincoln Park.

Patty DiBartolo told her daughter those trips to the South Hill park - at least four in the two months before her death - left her confused.

Defense attorney Maryann Moreno tried to put Robinson on the defensive, suggesting her mother thought the trips to the park were “romantic,” since that was the site of their first date.

“She said it was romantic, the first and second time,” Robinson replied. “But then they continued going and she said they never talked.”

Nicholas DiBartolo, DiBartolo’s 18-year-old son, told jurors he “suspected” his father’s guilt weeks before his arrest on Jan. 29, 1997.

In the weeks before his mother’s murder, Nicholas DiBartolo said he picked up the phone at home and heard his dad talking about sex with another woman. He later told his mother what he heard, Nicholas DiBartolo said.

“Him talking to someone other than my mother, that was something I didn’t want to hear,” he said.

DiBartolo’s two other former girlfriends who testified Monday were Laurie Jacobsen and Joann Walker.

Jacobsen, a Montana resident, said she met DiBartolo in 1985 when both were members of Spokane County’s dive team.

They started a relationship that continued through last December, she said.

Asked by Sweetser what DiBartolo’s personal interests were, Jacobsen paused, then said: “sex.” She said DiBartolo told her he and his wife had begun living “like roommates.”

Walker, a Medical Lake neighbor of DiBartolo’s, said she met him 10 years ago. They became intimate around 1993, she said.

When asked by Moreno what DiBartolo told her about his wife, Walker replied, “that he still loved her very much.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: COMING UP Prosecutors will present testimony today from laboratory experts, and hope to finish their case against DiBartolo on Wednesday. The defense could present its case on Monday after a two-day Thanksgiving recess.

This sidebar appeared with the story: COMING UP Prosecutors will present testimony today from laboratory experts, and hope to finish their case against DiBartolo on Wednesday. The defense could present its case on Monday after a two-day Thanksgiving recess.


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