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Six family members indicted in girl's death

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 28, 2015 at 3:49 PM

MANSFIELD A Richland County grand jury indicted six relatives last week in connection with the mysterious death of a 4-month-old girl during a four-day drive home to Mansfield from Florida.

Prosecutors have accused the baby's uncle, Mansfield resident Scott A. Ritchie, 26, of causing Mary Ann Ritchie's death because she was crying, but they did not say in local reports how she died. Scott Ritchie is charged with one count each of aggravated murder, felonious assault and obstructing justice, plus two counts of child endangerment.

He has been in custody at the Richland County Jail since Jan. 25 on a $500,000 bond, jail Lt. Robert Santoro said.

The suspect's court-appointed attorney, Ralph Bove, of Mansfield, was in court this morning and couldn't be reached for comment.

On Jan. 22, an ambulance was dispatched to the baby's home, but police said her body was already stiff, indicating she been dead for some time, when she arrived at MedCentral Health System in Mansfield with her mother and siblings. Mary Ann reportedly had a broken arm when she was taken to the hospital.

MedCentral spokeswoman Maura Teynor referred all questions to Richland County Coroner Dr. Stewart Ryckman, who couldn't be reached for comment this morning.

After the Jan. 22 hospital visit, the victim's 4-year-old half-sister approached an investigator with undisclosed information about the circumstances in the minivan, according to local reports. Authorities said the girl's family were returning to Mansfield from a failed trip to make money in Florida.

Also indicted on an aggravated murder charge was Galion resident Brandi N. Denzer, 30. The baby's father, Cleet A. Ritchie, 28, and the mother, Betty A. Viars, 22, both of Mansfield, are charged with permitting child abuse, Santoro said.

All the suspects, including Scott Ritchie, must post a $500,000 bond before being released from jail and then be electronically-monitored on house arrest afterwards, Santoro said. "They'll be watched very closely," he added.

Two aunts, Penny M. Ritchie, 25, of 6220 Olivesburg Fitchville Road, Greenwich, who was in the van, and Mansfield resident Dawn L. Ritchie, 22, who was not, are indicted on one count each of obstructing justice.

Penny was released from custody Wednesday after posting a $10,000 bond following one day in jail. Dawn posted a $25,000 bond Thursday after two days behind bars, Santoro said.

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