A D.C. Superior Court jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on whether Roderick Ridley fatally stabbed his former girlfriend, Tiffany Gates, in 2008. However, the jury found Ridley guilty of burglary, carrying a concealed weapon and multiple counts of obstruction of justice and making threats.
Despite the lack of a murder conviction, Judge Gerald Fisher sentenced Ridley to 74 1 / 2 years in prison in connection with Gates’s slaying, saying he thinks that Ridley, 34, stabbed his former girlfriend. Fisher called the case one of the most horrible he had heard in his courtroom.
“I have no doubt he killed Ms. Gates. There’s something perverse within him,” Fisher said.
It was a domestic- and emotional-abuse case with a deadly ending. On Nov. 21, 2008, authorities said, Ridley escaped from a minimum-security halfway house, broke into Gates’s Southeast Washington apartment and stabbed her in the face, neck and chest. Ridley was charged with 30 counts in the slaying, including first-degree murder, burglary, obstruction of justice and repeated threats to Gates.
Ridley’s attorney, Cary Clennon, said there was no DNA linking his client to the killing and there were no witnesses. After a week-long trial in May and five days of deliberations, the jury of five men and eight women was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright said prosecutors plan to retry Ridley on the murder charges in May.
At the sentencing, Wright asked the judge to sentence Ridley to life in prison without parole. She said she feared that he would prey upon additional women as he did with Gates and others in the past.
Gates and Ridley began dating in summer 2007, according to court records, but the relationship deteriorated. Gates, 33, sought a protective order against Ridley, who allegedly threatened her life. In August 2008, Gates accused Ridley of kicking, punching and striking her in the head with a knife during a dispute.
A day later, as Gates returned with a police escort to retrieve her belongings from the apartment she had shared with Ridley, Ridley allegedly set the couch on fire. He pleaded guilty to attempted arson and was ordered to the D.C. jail before being released to a halfway house. Several judges ordered Ridley to stay away from Gates.
But the two reached out to each other. She visited him in jail. She put money into his jail account. She accepted his calls. And she petitioned the court to have him released to a halfway house after the fire, Ridley’s attorney said.
When Ridley escaped from the halfway house Oct. 29, a federal marshal gave Gates his card and told her to call if she saw him. On the morning of Nov. 20, Gates was on the phone with her mother when she looked out a window and saw Ridley stuffing rags into her car’s tailpipe. Gates’s mother urged her to call the police and the marshal. Ridley was gone when police arrived.
The next day, about 12:15 a.m, Gates called 911 to report seeing Ridley near her apartment. Wright said Gates called the marshal, who lived an hour away, in a panic, telling him, “He’s kicking down my door.”
The marshal waited for police backup before entering. Police found Gates’s body in the hallway outside a neighbor’s door.
The 6-foot-4 Ridley was found covered in blood and hiding in a cabinet under a sink in a vacant downstairs apartment.
During the trial, prosecutors said that Ridley controlled Gates, who prosecutors said was plagued with depression, low self-esteem and bipolar disorder. Gates’s apparent attachment to Ridley disturbed the judge.
“It’s hard to explain the reason Ms. Gates stayed in a relationship and supported Mr. Ridley. Perhaps it was an emotional need,” Fisher said. “When Ms. Gates supported him, he was happy. But when she did not support him, he became angry.”
At Monday’s hearing, Gates’s mother, Vanessa, said that when Ridley was dating her daughter, she “treated you like part of our family.” Gates’s father, Michael “Butch” Jackson, standing and facing Ridley, who was shackled and standing next to his attorney, repeatedly told Ridley, “I need you to admit what you’ve done.”
Ridley seemed unmoved. He turned to Gates’s family and spoke softly: “I sympathize deeply with your grief.” Deputy marshals led him away.