This is Part III in a series. To read from the beginning, go back to Part I.
Suzanne Ribando pressed the knife against her throat. She says she wanted to die right there on her front lawn.
As she stood there, ready to take her own life, New Rochelle police officers rushed her, tackled her to the ground and handcuffed. Patrick and Tracey Hickey, her neighbors, looked on with satisfaction. Ribando was put under arrest and roughly placed in the back of a New Rochelle police car.
Ribando was taken to New Rochelle police headquarters. She was brought before a judge in the City Court of New Rochelle. The judge gave her a court appearance date of May 27th and ordered her sent to Mount Vernon Hospital for observation.
Ribando, thoroughly rattled, was taken from the courtroom and placed in an NRPD patrol car for the drive to Mount Vernon, NY. She became more upset as she was transported by two officers, Michael Ciafardini and Christopher Gugliemo. Along the way, the pair of officers observed a group of young black men, about high school age, crossing the street. One of the two officers, she could not tell which, made what she described as an ugly racist comment. The implication for her, that they felt comfortable with such comments while she was riding handcuffed in the back seat, scared her out of her wits.
At Mount Vernon Hospital she was placed under observation by a psychologist and then committed, against her will. She remained at the hospital for the next several days.
Throughout her time at the hospital, Ribando was extremely agitated. When she was allowed to call home, her mother sobbed on the telephone, confused and anxious for her daughter’s return.
Ribando was preoccupied with her court appearance date on May 27th. She expressed her concerns to staff at the hospital who assured her that the judge knew she was in the hospital. After all, the staff pointed out, the judge had sent her there in the first place. Hospital staff drafted a letter for the court explaining that she would be unable to appear. The letter was transmitted via fax and sent through the regular mail.
Ribando said she was released from Mount Vernon Hospital late in the day on the 27th or 28th, she did not recall exactly but did recall that she knew she had missed the court appearance date. She was not aware that on May 27th New Rochelle Judge Preston Scher had signed an arrest warrant for her.
On May 29th, Ribando was back home with her mother, Betty, and ailing father, James. She was still in a fragile, emotional state, just a few days removed from a suicidal event brought on when police told her she was being arrested for scratching Tracey Hickey’s car. She was embarrassed. She felt alone. Ribando had long since learned that New Rochelle police would never listen to anything she had to say, she knew every word from the Hickeys would be taken at face value. She no longer thought about why this was the case. She just accepted that this was the reality, that the entire justice system in New Rochelle was stacked against her and there was nothing she could do about it.
She knew that no police officer would ever wonder why Tracey Hickey would park her car directly in front of the Ribando home at 106 Stephenson Boulevard when the Hickey’s have their own driveway at 110 Stephenson Boulevard and street parking directly in front of their home.
She knew that it did not matter that the Hickeys had never produced a single shred of evidence to support their claims against her or that no witnesses had corroborated the Hickeys claims or that many of the crimes she was being accused of were based on complaints weeks and even months after the fact.
And she knew that she was now going to have to go back to court to face criminal charges for scratching a car that she never touched based on allegations from people who, for reasons she has never understood, were out to get her.
It was in this state of mind that Ribando opened the door to her home to find that, once again, the New Rochelle police had come to arrest her. New Rochelle Police Detectives Ray Andolina and Thomas Straehle took Ribando into custody. As her mother watched, in tears, Suzanne Ribando was driven away in a police car. She would not see her daughter again any time soon.
Back at the City Court of New Rochelle, Ribando was brought before Judge John P. Colangelo.
Colangelo took little time in remanding her to the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla, NY where she would remain, locked up, for a week. Suzanne Ribando may hold the distinction of being the only person ever in Westchester County to be arrested, twice, put in local jail, confined to a psychiatric hospital and then imprisoned for a week based on an unproven allegation that she keyed her neighbors car.
Meanwhile, back to 106 Stephenson Boulevard Betty Ribando had seen enough. She picked up the telephone and made a call.
This is Part III in a series. Read Part IV.
[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]