This is Part II in a series. To read from the beginning, go back to Part I.
When we last left off, I was at a diner in Eastchester where Suzanne Ribando was telling me her story of years of torment and harassment by her neighbors and members of the New Rochelle police department. Ribando, who grew up at 106 Stephenson Boulevard in New Rochelle and lived there almost her entire life, had never had any problem with her neighbors or law enforcement. After Patrick and Tracey Hickey moved in to the house next door in 2004, Ribando began receiving regular visits from members of the New Rochelle Police Department. The police showed up at her door numerous times, pursuing an assortment of increasingly bizarre and unsubstantiated complaints made by the Hickeys culminating in Ribando’s arrest by Detective Vincent Mirabile on August 22, 2007.
Unable to understand why police officers would not listen to her side of the story yet accept every word from the Hickeys as beyond question, Ribando became despondent. Convinced that the only way out of her nightmare was to accept a plea deal following her arrest by Mirabile in August 2007, Ribando had plead guilty to a charge of non-criminal harassment in November, 2007. The judge had also granted an order of protection for the Hickeys. Ribando, having no real concept of how that order of protection could be,and would be, abused by the Hickeys, did not challenge the order of protection. She has come to believe that by giving the Hickeys what they wanted they would leave her alone. She is wrong.
In her recounting of her story at the diner, it is now November, 2007. She is at home with her elderly parents. She starts to really believe her 18 month ordeal is over. In fact, it had just begun.
Over the winter there has been little interaction with the Hickeys. Not much had happened. Ribando felt confident that she made the right decision in accepting the plea deal. She avoided the Hickeys and they did not make any complaints to police. All appeared well.
That changed on March 9 2008 when the Hickeys made a new complaint. Patrick Hickey told police that after parking his car in his driveway on the night of March 8th, he had returned to the car the morning of March 9th to discover scratches on the driver’s side door. There was a brick on the ground, below the door. Hickey told police he had seen the brick on his driveway curb over the previous several days. When the police arrived, he told them he had an order of protection against Ribando, clearly hoping to have her arrested. The police question Ribando who denied any knowledge of the brick or the scratches on the car. The police officer noticed that the chimney of the Ribando house was in close proximity to Hickey’s driveway and surmised the brick may have just come loose from the chimney and fallen. The officer reported the incident as “criminal mischief” but noted that Hickey and Ribando did not interact so there is no violation of the order of protection.
Only later will Ribando learn that two days after the brick incident, on March 11, 2008, Patrick and Tracey Hickey again attempted to have her arrested for violating the order of protection. Records will later show, the Hickeys called Detective Jeff Wilson. They went to New Rochelle Police headquarters and met Wilson. They gave statements claiming that Ribando has been harassing them for three years — cursing, talking loud, acting in a threatening manner and so forth. The Hickeys claimed that in February, 2008, Ribando had yelled and cursed at their children. As in every other case, there is no supporting evidence or independent corroboration.
Wilson took the report, wrote it up as “criminal contempt” and then gave it to the District Attorney. Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Michael Borelli told Wilson the complaint did not indicate a violation of the order of protection but suggested Wilson should wait to see if there are any additional incidents.
On April 24, 2008 Tracey Hickey made a complaint to Detective Jeff Wilson regarding an event that occurred the previous day. Hickey told Wilson she heard Ribando talking in her yard and, feeling threatened, took her kids across the street to Stephenson Park. According to Hickey, Ribando, appeared in the park a few minutes later, walking her dog. Ribando says she was unaware that the Hickeys were in the park. Wilson takes the new complaint to the District Attorney. Ribando is not arrested, indicating that the ADA told Wilson that the walk in the park was not a violation of the order of protection. Ribando said she was never questioned about the dog walking incident until much later and did not know at the time that Tracey Hickey had made a complaint to Wilson.
Also in the park that day is Dana Ziogas, a neighbor friendly with the Hickeys. Ziogas lives in the house on the other side of 110 Stephenson Boulevard. More on her later.
On May 9, 2008 Tracey Hickey called the police to complain that Ribando had made a “rude comment” to her while she was parking her car. Questioned by police, Ribando denied the claim. The incident was labeled a “dispute” by the responding officer and not considered a violation of the order of protection.
By this time, Ribando has realized that the Hickeys were attempting to use the Order of Protection to have her arrested. The magnitude of her error in accepting the plea agreement and the order of protection is now readily apparent to her. She is increasingly distraught. She is preoccupied with the fear of what the Hickeys will do next. Mostly, she is worried about what will happen to her parents if she is arrested.
Things come to a head on May 24, 2008.
On that day, Ribando left her house to walk her dog. She was unaware that earlier in the day Tracey had parked her car directly in front of the Ribando home at the point where the walkway leading from the house meets the sidewalk. As she returned to her house she was stopped by a New Rochelle police officer in a patrol car. The officer asked her to confirm that she was Suzanne Ribando then told her she must return home. The police office trailed behind her in his car as she walked back to her house.
Ribando arrived home to find several police cars parked all about her house. New Rochelle police officers were standing on her front yard, waiting for her. The police told her to put her dog in the house and come back outside. Ribando complied, at which point she was told that she was videotaped in the act of scratching Tracey Hickey’s car. Ribando denied scratching the car. The police officers insisted that she did, that they know she did because there is video tape evidence and that officers are inside the Hickey home reviewing the video tape at that moment. She was told that she needed to admit what she did. Knowing that she did not scratch the car, Ribando knew there could not be any videotape of her scratching the car yet the police continued to press her to admit guilt. The more she denied scratching the car the more insistent the police became. She realized that the situation was hopeless. As has been the case every other time, she knew that anything the Hickeys said would be accepted by the police as true. She knows anything she said would be ignored. She described feeling totally alone, totally helpless, and totally overwhelmed. She had reached a breaking point.
She says her mind was reeling in disbelief as the police continued to demand that she confess to a crime she did not commit. She continued to deny scratching the car or even going near the car. The police refused to accept her answer. They repeatedly suggested they would have the video tape evidence at any moment. That she should admit what she did.
Throughout, the police never question why Tracey Hickey had parked her car directly in front of Ribando’s home. They know there are no witnesses. They know there is no video tape.
Unable to get Ribando to confess to scratching Tracey Hickey’s car, police abruptly informed Ribando that she is being arrested for violating the order of protection.
A wave of emotion flooded over Ribando. She tells the officer coming towards her that she wants to die. She reaches in her pocket, pulls out a knife and puts it to her own throat.
This is Part II in a series. Read Part III.
[NOTE: This account has been presented as a narrative based on a long lunch at a diner; while the lunch at the diner did take place, further research and fact-checking was done later. To make the story a better read for my audience, I am using the meeting at the diner as a rhetorical device. Within that framework, this is an accurate account of the story as it was told to me by Ribando and then confirmed through public records and follow-up interviews]