When Cedric Allen Ricks was a child, friends and family saw signs that he was emotionally unstable, they testified Wednesday as Ricks’ defense attorneys opened their case in the punishment phase of his capital murder trial.
But the family never could find the right help for Ricks.
“To be honest with you, we had long conversations about Cedric the first time he went to kindergarten,” his father, Cedric J. Ricks, testified. “When I went to pick him up after that first day, they said, ‘Don’t bring that boy back here.’ ”
Tarrant County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Ricks for fatally stabbing his live-in girlfriend, Roxann Sanchez, 30, and her 8-year-old son, Anthony Figueroa, on May 1, 2013.
Ricks also stabbed Marcus Figueroa, Sanchez’s 12-year-old son, and left him bleeding and near death on the floor of their Bedford apartment next to the bodies of his brother and mother. Marcus survived and testified last week in the guilt-innocence phase of Ricks’ trial.
Prosecutors are trying to persuade jurors to sentence Ricks to death by showing that, among other things, he poses a continuing threat to society. His defense attorneys will try to demonstrate mitigating factors in his character or background that would warrant a sentence of life without parole.
‘Something in my head’
When he was about 9, Ricks set fire to a tree in the front yard and later, he threw a brick through the window, his father testified.
“He was never able to explain these things,” the father said. “He said something in my head keeps telling me to do these things.”
The elder Ricks said the family tried counselors, psychiatrists, doctors and even had him committed, but any progress was short-lived. His son could stay out of trouble for only two or three weeks, the father said.
When he was committed to a psychiatric facility, “he was there a month,” the father said. “When you went to see him, you didn’t know whether he knew you or not. I’d talk to him and he’d say, ‘I don’t know what they’re doing to me.’ He had no control of himself. He walked around like he was a zombie.
“We went to counseling, psychiatrists, but no one ever suggested that we do anything further.”
‘Cedric did it’
Edna McCollough, a family friend, testified that Ricks came close to setting her car on fire one day when she and Ricks’ mother took their boys out to get pizza. Ricks was about 9, McCollough said.
When the women returned with the pizza, the three boys were standing outside the car. The interior was filled with smoke.
“We didn’t do it,” two of the boys said. “Cedric did it.”
Ricks had packed tissue around the cigarette lighter and pushed it in, McCollough said. The boys were able to extinguish the fire before it got any worse.
“When I asked him why he did it, he said that he didn’t know why,” McCollough said. “I said to [Ricks’ mother] that something was wrong with him. She said she knew and that they were going to try and see what was going on.”
Ricks’ mother told McCollough that she got calls from the staff at his school almost every day.
“We were hoping that he would grow out of it,” McCollough said.
Beaten in jail
After the killings, Ricks took Sanchez’s car and drove to Oklahoma. Authorities quickly tracked him using his cellphone, and Oklahoma state troopers arrested him in Ardmore.
Ricks was placed in a jail where he was beaten by other inmates, according to testimony and a video shown Wednesday.
The video showed Ricks being pummeled and screaming as he ran from his cell. Bedford police Detective William Mack testified that Oklahoma authorities had placed Ricks in an area with a killer and several other inmates. Mack said he did not know how many inmates hit Ricks, but it was more than two.
Initially, Ricks did not agree to being extradited to Texas, attorney Bill Ray said to Mack.
“After Mr. Ricks got into a fight, it didn’t take him long to waive extradition, did it ?” Ray asked.
“No, sir,” Mack said.
“He was ready to come back to Fort Worth?” Ray asked.
“Yes sir,” Mack testified.
When Ricks was brought back, it was apparent that he had been badly beaten recently, said Terry Grisham, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department. His left eye was shut and his face was swollen, Grisham said.
Testimony is expected to continue Thursday in state District Judge Mollee Westfall’s court. Bob Gill and Robert Huseman are prosecutors.
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives