Ex-Boyfriend Ordered Held Without Bond

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 13, 2008

The former boyfriend of a District woman charged with stabbing her to death while a federal marshal she had called for help waited outside for backup was ordered held without bond yesterday.

New details of the domestic abuse case emerged during a hearing in D.C. Superior Court, including a police estimate that less than three minutes elapsed from the time Tiffany Gates told a marshal that she was being attacked to when police arrived and found her dead in the hallway of her apartment building.

Robert A. Ridley smiled at times as D.C. homicide detective Daniel Whalen referred to a coroner's report on Gates, who was 33 when she was killed Nov. 21. Gates was stabbed "several" times in her face, upper chest, hands and forearms. That suggests she tried to fight off her attacker, Whalen said.

Ridley had escaped from a halfway house Oct. 29. Since then, Gates had been in frequent contact with a federal marshal assigned to apprehend Ridley.

On the night of Nov. 21, Gates called 911 to report seeing Ridley near her apartment. Minutes later, she called the marshal in a panic and told him that Ridley was kicking down her door, Whalen testified.

By then, the marshal was in his car outside Gates's building in the 3900 block of D Street SE. The marshal called for police backup, which Whalen said was standard procedure because he was off duty and in plain clothes.

Whalen said it took about three minutes for police to respond, find a way into the locked main door and go to Gates's apartment.

Gates was found in the hallway, lying in her blood outside the door of a neighbor's apartment where she had run for help.

Minutes after the attack, police found Ridley wearing blood stained clothes and hiding in a cabinet under a kitchen sink in an abandoned basement apartment in the building. Whalen said Ridley resisted arrest, leading police to use a Taser on him and put him in restraints.

Yesterday's hearing was to have taken place Monday, but Ridley is alleged to have gotten into a scuffle with a marshal in the lock-up cell behind the courtroom. As a result, he was ordered back to the D.C. jail and the hearing was rescheduled. Four marshals surrounded him yesterday, double the customary two who guard prisoners.

Gates's killing, Whalen said, culminated a violent relationship with Ridley. The two started dating in summer 2007. The relationship deteriorated, according to court records, causing Gates to seek a temporary protection order against Ridley, who, it's alleged, threatened her life. She changed her telephone number and sought court and police protection.

"She did everything correctly," Whalen said after the hearing.

According to court documents, Gates accused Ridley of kicking, punching and striking her in the head with a knife in an Aug. 12 dispute. A day later, as Gates returned with a police escort to the apartment she had shared with Ridley and retrieved her belongings, it's alleged that Ridley set the couch on fire. He was charged with arson and ordered to D.C. jail until he was released to the halfway house.

"Mr. Ridley was a danger to Ms. Gates and a clear danger to our community," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward G. Burley. "He's a danger to everyone he comes in contact with."

Judge Harold L. Cushenberry Jr. ordered Ridley held and set his next hearing for Feb. 13 before Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin.

Almost three rows of Gates's family members, including her mother and cousin, attended the hearing. All wore T-shirts with her photograph and wiped away tears as they listened to the detective's account. They declined to comment after the hearing.

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