After deliberating for less than a day, the jury in the trial of neo-Nazi Travis Ricci, a jury of six men and six women sentenced Ricci to life in prison for the racially motivated, 2009 slaying of Kelley Ann Jaeger.
The same jury found Ricci guilty of first-degree murder in early January, with the penalty phase beginning January 17.
Ricci, 37, was found guilty on seven counts, including first-degree murder and assisting a criminal street gang — in this case, the notorious Vinlanders Social Club (VSC), a violent white-supremacist group linked to several murders in Arizona and other states.
Ricci fired a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun at Jaeger, a Caucasian, and her African-American boyfriend, Jeffery Wellmaker in the early-morning hours of October 3, 2009.
Shirtless and inebriated, an enraged Ricci challenged the interracial couple prior to the shooting by approaching them in Sunnyslope’s Palma Park, near 12th Street and Dunlap Avenue, shouting, “Nigger, what are you doing with that white woman?” and “This is white power.”
Wellmaker, 57, testified that Ricci menaced the pair for nearly a half mile before abandoning them near Seventh Street and Puget Avenue.
Ricci, a probate member of the VSC, later returned in a white four-door sedan driven by his accomplice, fellow neo-Nazi Aaron Levi Schmidt. Gunning for Wellmaker, Ricci unloaded two rounds, one hitting Jaeger in the stomach, the other going wild.
Police and emergency personnel were on the scene within a few minutes; Jaeger was transported to John C. Lincoln hospital just blocks away, where she succumbed to her wounds. The mother of two children had died two days shy of her 40th birthday.
Ricci’s conviction came during his second trial for the same charges. The first trial began at the beginning of June, but ended abruptly on July 11 when Judge Dean M. Fink declared a mistrial because a witness inadvertently revealed that Ricci had a prison record while being questioned by Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Ryan Green. The second trial began on October 29.