SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A Salt Lake County woman has been sentenced to serve up to 20 years in prison after confessing to poisoning and attempting to kill her roommate and best friend of 25 years. A few hours after 51-year-old Janie Lynn Ridd’s sentencing hearing Monday, the victim spoke to media in a press conference.
The victim, who only wanted to be identified as Rachel, said Ridd became her caretaker when she fell ill and helped care for her son, who has autism.
“We considered each other family and we called each other our sisters,” she said.
According to the sentencing memo provided by lead prosecutor Michael Gadd, the victim made Ridd the beneficiary of her life insurance policy, worth $500,000. She also designated in her will that Ridd would have parental custody of her son if she were to pass away.
But the victim said their relationship later began to deteriorate and she eventually told Ridd that she would try to move out and remove Ridd from her will.
“The defendant, who was and remains obsessed with [the victim’s] child, couldn’t let that happen. The defendant took [the victim’s] will and hid it in [her] vehicle,” Gadd’s memo stated.
The victim said Ridd’s secret injections began shortly after March 2019 when she underwent the first of several surgeries to fuse vertebrae in her neck. She suffered a series of lumps that developed near her incision. Doctors later found that one of the lumps contained E. Coli and K. Oxytoca (bacteria commonly found in the human gastrointestinal tract) that was injected from an external source.
“[Ridd] watched me scream and writhe in pain for the infections she injected. […] I can remember many tearful discussions he and I had about how my son would not understand, he’s cognitively delayed if I died. […] I also had three neck surgeries in the past nine months and the infections she injected into my spinal area created a much slower recovery,” the victim wrote in her statement, addressed to the court.
On several occasions, the memo stated the victim was found unconscious and rushed to the hospital for dangerously low blood sugar levels, even though she was not diabetic. Prosecutors said Ridd was secretly purchasing insulin, some on the dark web, and administering it to the victim.
“The insulin and other attacks against [the victim] were terrible and painful, but they were not enough to satisfy the defendant. By the fall of 2019, the defendant decided to escalate her attacks against [the victim]. The defendant turned again to the dark web to find a new weapon,” according to the memo.
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This time, Ridd purchased Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (VRSA), a bacterium that causes an infection ranging from a skin infection to a severe blood infection. It is resistant to most currently available antibiotics and can have harmful outcomes, including death.
“These infections are easily transferred and are the bane of hospital intensive care units. While not overly concerning to a healthy person, VRSA is particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems, like [the victim],” the memo stated.
What Ridd didn’t know was that her seller was an undercover FBI agent. Investigators said she repeatedly lied and said she was a high school science teacher who needed the bacterium for class experiments. They said she grew impatient with the seller’s excuses and delays and offered to pay for expedited shipping.
Investigators from the FBI, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the US Postal Inspection Service then created a plan to falsely deliver the VRSA and then execute search warrants before interviewing Ridd. Agents said they found a hidden, expended insulin needle in Ridd’s office and after testing it, they found the victim’s DNA on it. Prosecutors believe her motive was an “obsessive desire to take custody of [the victim’s] son.”
Ridd confessed to the crimes brought against her. On Monday, a judge sentenced her to an indeterminate amount of one to 15 years for the “Attempted Possession and Use of Weapon of Mass Destruction” charge and zero to five years for the “Attempted Aggravated Abuse of a Disabled or Elderly Adult” charge. The sentences will run consecutively.
In a statement to ABC4 News, Ridd’s defense attorney, Scott Williams wrote:
“When a person does as Ms. Ridd did, and accepts responsibility and pleads guilty without having any hearings or a full description of the totality of a case, the only thing the public hears is one side–unchallenged. Despite a sentencing matrix of probation, she agreed to go to prison, and we have put our faith in the Board of Pardons to consider a fair sentence.”
In Williams’ sentencing memo, he wrote that Ridd is a person who has otherwise lived a life of service to her community and has good moral character.
“Such actions with such a motive are and were atrocious. It was a serious and harmful criminal activity. […] The saddest irony is that she ultimately did what she did out of a twisted sense of desperate caring for the well-being of the child she had grown to love and protect […] Circumstances became desperate as [the victim] became increasingly verbally and mentally abusive to both Ms. Ridd and [the victim’s son]. Ms. Ridd’s mental health steadily deteriorated, and her desperation and fear for the well-being of [the victim’s son] increased. She snapped. She lost control of her thoughts. She essentially went mad,” the memo stated.
He went on to state, “[Ridd] has long since broken from the spell that she could ever have anything to do with [the victim’s son] in the future and would have no desire to have anything to do with his life in the future.”
The victim said her physical health has steadily improved over the last nine months since Ridd was arrested.
“I am on the road to recovery as far as day to day living. But I think the psychological and emotional is probably is going to be what lasts the longest,” she said.