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Death prompts heroin arrests

May 16, 2000|By DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The arrest of three people on heroin charges stemmed from an investigation into the Saturday death of an Antrim Township, Pa., man, although none is charged in the death, according to court records.

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John L. Ricchi, 34, of 7536 Molly Pitcher Highway South, was found dead in his home on Saturday.

Pennsylvania State Police took Daniel Jason Roberts, 21, of 2509 Williamson Road, Greencastle, into custody later that day outside Ricchi's home.

On Sunday, Greencastle police charged Joseph L. Mellott, 43, and his son Corbett L. Mellott, 21, both of 51 W. Dahlgren St., Greencastle, after searching their home.

The affidavit of probable cause for Roberts said Ricchi was holding a vial of heroin when his wife Trinity Ricchi found him lying at the top of the stairs Saturday.

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The affidavit says that after Trinity Ricchi found her husband dead, she received a call from a man who asked if John Ricchi wanted more heroin.

Trinity Ricchi did not tell him her husband was dead, and the caller said she could leave $50 on the front seat of her car and he would leave the heroin there later.

According to the affidavit, Trooper Chris Manetta set up surveillance outside and at 6:40 p.m. saw a car with two men drive up to the house.

One man got out, went to Ricchi's car and then back to the other car. Police confronted the man and found a vial of heroin, the affidavit alleges.

Roberts was charged with possession of heroin with intent to deliver and criminal attempt to deliver heroin, police said. He was arraigned before District Justice Shirley Shatzer and released on $30,000 bond.

According to the affidavit of probable cause for Joseph Mellott, when Roberts was interviewed by police at 8:45 p.m. Saturday he told them he purchased heroin from Mellott and sold it to John Ricchi.

The affidavit also alleges a police informant bought heroin at the Mellotts' home on April 17 and May 4.

A search warrant was executed at 2:07 a.m. Sunday with State Police, members of the Franklin County Drug Task Force, and police from Waynesboro and Washington Township assisting Greencastle police, according to the report.

The affidavit alleges that inside the house, police found four vials of suspected heroin and another empty vial, along with a bag of unused needles and syringes, $481 in cash and a list of telephone numbers.

In Corbett Mellott's bedroom, police found packets and spoons with heroin residue, two small bags of marijuana and a set of scales, the affidavit alleges.

Joseph Mellott was charged with three counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and one count each of possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. Corbett Mellott was charged with criminal conspiracy to possess heroin with intent to deliver, and possession of heroin, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Both were arraigned before Shatzer. Both remained in Franklin County Prison Tuesday on $50,000 bond each, a prison official said.

An autopsy Monday did not establish cause of death for Ricchi, according to Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner. He said he was awaiting the results of toxicological tests.

The affidavit for Roberts said Ricchi's death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose.

According to county court records, Ricchi pleaded guilty in 1998 to possession with intent to deliver marijuana and delivery of marijuana. The charges had been filed in 1996 and 1997, court records said.

Ricchi was granted several postponements before he was sentenced in September 1999. He was given two years probation and was ordered to spend three months on an electronic monitor, followed by three months of house arrest, court records said.

Ricchi went to court Dec. 3 with the unusual request that he remain on the electronic monitor. He had been scheduled to go on house arrest, which is a lower level of supervision, court records said.

Ricchi was wearing an electronic monitor when he died, according to Conner and Manetta.

"The State Police investigation is continuing and it will involve looking into the circumstances of Mr. Ricchi's death," Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson said Tuesday.

Until a cause of death is determined, Nelson said the investigation will remain open.

Under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code a person convicted of selling controlled substances that lead to another person's death can be charged with third-degree murder.

A fourth person was charged over the weekend with possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia, according to Greencastle police.

Police were dispatched to the home of David Earl Nunemaker Jr., 21, 44 W. Madison St., at 3:44 a.m. for a reported drug overdose.

Nunemaker was treated at Chambersburg Hospital, where the affidavit alleged that a needle, syringe and vial of heroin were found in his pockets. In his room police found a spoon and cotton balls with suspected heroin residue, the affidavit said.

Nunemaker was under house arrest for 1999 marijuana possession and driving under the influence convictions, according to court records. He was charged earlier this year by Chambersburg police with submitting a phony urine sample to the Franklin County Probation Department, court records said.

He was jailed for violating the terms of his house arrest, police said.

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