A federal judge has denied the request by Angela Ricci, widow of a major suspect in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, to reopen a lawsuit against Salt Lake City and the state of Utah.

Richard Ricci was for a considerable time a prime suspect in the June 5, 2002, kidnapping of the then 14-year-old girl from her Federal Heights home. Ricci, 48, was a parolee at the time of the kidnapping and had worked as a handyman at Smart's home.

He was returned to prison for parole violations, suffered a brain hemorrhage in his cell and died Aug. 20, 2002.

His widow, fighting on her own and on behalf of Ricci's estate, claimed Ricci had been unfairly made into a scapegoat by police in order to close the high-profile case and that prison officials had denied Ricci necessary medication for his high blood pressure, which ultimately led to his death.

Angela Ricci sued various government entities claiming that many of her husband's civil rights had been violated. She also sued for wrongful death.

Angela Ricci contended that Richard Ricci suffered sorrow and stress at the hands of incompetent police who were determined to find him guilty no matter what the evidence showed.

A settlement was reached in Angela Ricci's lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections in which she got $150,000 and, in return, the state would not admit any wrongdoing.

In another legal action involving Salt Lake City and its police, Angela Ricci lost on the local level and appeals level, and the lawsuit was litigated to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.

Ricci sought to reopen the case in U.S. District Court in Utah, but on Wednesday U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart denied her motion.

"It was a procedural issue," said Martha Stonebrook, an attorney for Salt Lake City. "We opposed it and the judge agreed with us."

Elizabeth Smart was found March 12, 2003, walking in Sandy with Brian David Mitchell, now 54, and Wanda Barzee, now 62, whom Smart said had held her captive for nine months.

Mitchell and Barzee have been charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping. Both are in custody, and their criminal cases are pending in the state's 3rd District Court. However, the progress in each case has been slow due to the complexity of mental health matters that have emerged for both defendants.

Elizabeth Smart, now 20, is a student at Brigham Young University.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com