SLT - January 23, 1998
Suspect in Utah Slaying
Nabbed by FBI in Texas; Suspect Held in Death Of S.L. Woman
Thursday, FBI agents in Houston arrested a man who once dated Frome. Salt Lake City police detectives interviewed the suspect in Texas on Thursday but he had not been charged in her death by evening. The suspect was questioned about the girl's whereabouts, but she remained missing, police said. The suspect, Brit Allen Ripkowski, had a growing obsession with Frome that lasted nearly 1 1/2 years and led to frightening encounters, forcing her to obtain a protective order, according to Utah court records. Ripkowski failed to attend court sessions and court-ordered counseling with few consequences.
"Brit has shown no remorse, no accountability, no responsibility in the matter of his abusive behaviors,'' a domestic-violence counselor wrote to Utah court officials in September after Ripkowski dropped out of counseling. "I am concerned for the safety of his partner and her children. . . . "
On Dec. 22, Monica Frome's body was found but investigators were not able to identify her at that time. Now, police are investigating whether she had been murdered in her apartment in Salt Lake City before her body was dumped near Monticello. Her husband, Nathan Frome, had separated from Monica a week before she was killed. When he went to pick up Dominique for Christmas, neither mother nor daughter were home. Family members became more concerned after Monica failed to pick up her two other children from her previous husband, Shawn Allen.
"We were all worried about her,'' said Nathan Frome. "Her kids meant everything to her. They were her whole life. We knew something was wrong." The family filed a missing person report, then waited. Meanwhile, San Juan County sheriff's investigators released a sketch of the dead woman's face. Police made the connection, and on Jan. 14, called Nathan Frome. Suspicion fell on Ripkowski, a 26-year-old computer technician who allegedly stalked other women as well, even while on probation, according to court records.
He was convicted of stalking former girlfriend Dennise Arroyo after lurking outside her Salt Lake City home in June 1996 and leaving threatening messages on her car. Third District Judge Lee Dever punished him with a $150 fine and an order to get counseling. Ripkowski continued stalking Arroyo, then began harassing Monica Frome, according to court records.
Sinister objects had appeared on the doorstep of her Murray home, her car had been vandalized, and she had found a Halloween mask with a threatening note, according to Murray police. The stalker left other notes, professing a desire to throw her from a moving car or shoot her with his father's gun, court records show. Murray police officers confronted Ripkowski. He denied harassing her and denounced Frome as "a liar.'' Police warned him to stay away.
Frome obtained a protection order on Feb. 5, and Murray City prosecutors charged Ripkowski with stalking. He moved to Baytown, Texas, last May. Frome reconciled and joined Ripkowski in the Houston-area town. Consequently, the Murray stalking case was dismissed, said Murray City Attorney H. Craig Hall. But four other cases remain pending against Ripkowski: charges of violating Frome's protection order filed by Salt Lake City prosecutors and three stalking cases involving Arroyo. Ripkowski was arrested April 22 for skipping court appearances and violating probation. His explanation: Arroyo had someone pretending to be him call the court to change hearing dates so he would, in turn, miss them.
In Texas, he began court-ordered domestic-abuse counseling through a Houston-based program, the Pivot Project. "He used blaming language and showed little ability to identify his abusive behaviors,'' wrote counselor Karena Valkyrie. "He sees himself as a victim rather than someone who could have made wrong choices.'' Ripkowski began group therapy but dropped out. "Brit is in a period of 'honeymoon' and overinflated sense of grandiosity and believes he is doing nothing improper,'' Valkyrie wrote.
Back in Utah, 3rd District Judge Joseph Fratto issued a warrant for Ripkowski's arrest after he failed to appear for an Oct. 21 court date. Officials, however, failed to serve that warrant. By September, Frome rented a Salt Lake City apartment. On Oct. 3, Ripkowski, who was back in town, exploded in anger during an argument. He slammed Frome and one of her daughters into walls and threw a rock through the windshield of Frome's Toyota van. Frome was injured during the argument and was treated at an emergency room, according to her protection-order affidavit.
A Nov. 10 court date was set for Frome to renew her protection order, but she did not appear. The petition was dismissed. This week, family members were making arrangements for Frome's funeral, set for Saturday in West Jordan. Acquaintances remembered her as taking a lesser-paying job in day care to be with her daughter, Dominique. "The greatest thing about Monica was her love for her children,'' said ex-husband Shawn Allen.
Added Nathan Frome: "She was wonderful. She was always happy. . . . She lived her life around her children.''
SLT - January 24, 1998
Stalker Leads Officers To Missing Girl's Body
The family of Monica Meza Frome was reeling from the 29-year-old Salt Lake City mother's murder when members were dealt a new blow Friday: Texas authorities found her toddler dead in a shallow grave outside Houston. Brit Allen Ripkowski, an estranged boyfriend who had been stalking Frome for more than a year, led authorities to the body of 2 1/2-year-old Dominique Frome after his arrest Thursday in Texas.
Ripkowski, 26, will face a likely a capital prosecution for Dominique's murder in a state that has the nation's largest number of executions. Police believe Ripkowski murdered Frome in her Salt Lake City apartment on Dec. 21. Neighbors heard an argument that night, but her murder was not discovered until about a week later. Investigators believe the suspect beat Frome to the death in the apartment, loaded her body and Dominique in the victim's Toyota van and headed to Texas, said Salt Lake City police Lt. Phil Kirk. Frome's body was dumped in southeastern Utah, where it was spotted by a motorist on U.S. Highway 666 near Monticello on Dec. 22.
Police suspect Ripkowski suffocated the child at his Houston apartment shortly after arriving in Texas, Kirk said. After his arrest, Ripkowski implicated himself in interviews with Salt Lake City police and directed authorities to look for the child buried near a reservoir northeast of Houston. Authorities found a little girl's body stuffed in a suitcase, buried near the Sheldon Reservoir. As of Friday night, the body had not been officially identified, nor had a cause of death been determined.
At the time of her murder, Frome was recently separated from Dominique's father, Nathan Frome, who had numerous run-ins with Ripkowski over the preceding year. Monica had dated Ripkowski in 1996. "A lot of times, I received calls from him saying that he was a better father than I could ever be and just to spite me, he would try to prove it,'' Nathan Frome said in an interview earlier this week. "He tried to tell me I couldn't see my daughter, so I beat the shit out of him.'' That incident resulted in a battery charge against Nathan Frome, which prosecutors recently dropped.
The Tribune has not contacted him since the fate of his daughter became known. Earlier this week, he was deeply worried about a little girl he loved. "She walks into a room and absolutely lights it up,'' he said. "She has to be the most cheerful baby I have ever been around with. She is always smiling and she has big brown eyes.''
Early last year, Ripkowski's harassment became so frightening that Nathan and Monica Frome moved to California for several months, according to court records. Authorities in West Valley City, Murray and Salt Lake City prosecuted Ripkowski for repeatedly stalking Frome and one of his co-workers, a woman who denies having a romantic relationship with the suspect. Ripkowski rarely was incarcerated even though he violated probation, missed court dates and dropped out of counseling.
Last March, he followed the Fromes to California, according to Nathan Frome and Monica's ex-husband, Shawn Allen. "They saw his car there and he had a baby seat in there like he was going to take the kids,'' said Allen, who has two daughters, ages 4 and 8, with Monica. "He's unstable, kind of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He could talk one minute about how he adored Nikki [Dominique] and how she adored him and how she called him daddy. Then he would say he wanted Monica to give up all of the children and that he didn't like the kids -- like he was jealous.''
Ripkowski moved to Texas last May with the blessing of 3rd District judges hearing the stalking cases. He was to complete a domestic-violence counseling program, but he dropped out of the Houston-based program on Aug. 19 when Monica Frome joined him in Texas and they reconciled, court records say. Friday, Ripkowski appeared before a U.S. magistrate to be arraigned on a federal kidnapping charge for allegedly taking Dominique across state lines. He was ordered to undergo a medical evaluation. Kirk said Salt Lake City police would review Frome's killing with Utah prosecutors for possible capital murder charges against Ripkowski. A conviction and death sentence in the Lone Star state, however, may make it unnecessary to prosecute him here.
HC - January 24, 1998
Tot found dead may be daughter of slain woman
Her daughter, Dominique Frome, was last seen alive on Dec. 21. The body found Friday, that of a small girl, was in a suitcase buried in a shallow grave near Fauna and Garrett roads about 3 :30 p.m. Houston Police Department spokesman John Cannon said the medical examiner's office still must confirm the buried child's identity and cause of death. Cannon and a FBI spokesman declined to say how investigators learned the body's whereabouts.
Ripkowski , who worked as a computer technician in Utah, was arrested in January 1997 for stalking Allen in her hometown of Murray, Utah, and a court ordered him not to go near Allen or her home. He was arrested in April on federal charges of violating that protective order, investigators said, and he apparently moved to Houston sometime later. Authorities said Ripkowski traveled to Utah last month to visit Allen.
Federal sources said he gave Houston homicide investigators a statement indicating Allen's daughter may be buried in this area.
HC - January 27, 1998
Man charged in death of 2-year-old
A southwest Houston man has been charged with capital murder in the death of a 2-year-old child whose body was discovered Friday buried in northeast Harris County. Britt Allen Ripkowski , 26, also may be implicated in the death of the child's mother in Utah last month.
Ripkowski was arrested Thursday at his apartment in the 9000 block of Town Park and charged with kidnapping the child, Dominique Frome. After his arrest Ripkowski confessed to killing the child and her mother, Monica Allen, 29, who was found beaten and strangled in Utah Dec. 22, police said.
Ripkowski told police he brought the child back to Houston on Dec. 24 and the next day he smothered her, stuffed her body in a suitcase, then buried her in a shallow grave near Little York and Beltway 8. The body was found by police after Ripkowski told them where he had buried the child.
Authorities said Ripkowski had worked
as a computer technician in Utah but moved to Houston after being arrested in
April for violating a protective order barring him from going near Allen. That order was issued after
Ripkowski 's arrest in January 1997 for stalking Allen in her hometown of
SLT - January 28, 1998
Texas Charges Ripkowski in Child's Murder
Ripkowski is being held without bail in the Harris County jail on the murder charge, which was filed Monday in 248th District Court in Houston. He also faces federal charges of kidnapping and interstate violation of a protection order in Houston's U.S. District Court. Federal agents arrested Ripkowski at his Houston apartment last week. The 26-year-old computer technician moved from Utah to Texas in May. The suspect directed officers to Dominique's body buried in a shallow grave outside Houston.
Ripkowski confessed to strangling the girl on Christmas Day at his apartment before stuffing her into a suitcase, said Houston police spokesman John Cannon. An autopsy confirmed Dominique was murdered by strangulation. Because it involves the intentional killing of a child under the age of 6, the Texas case is considered a capital crime, said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Kari Sckerl. Unlike Utah, Texas has no life without parole sentencing provision, but killers with a capital conviction must serve at least 40 years before they are eligible for release.
"If we were to seek the death penalty, we wouldn't be able to take this to trial until next year,'' said Sckerl. Ripkowski is to make his preliminary appearance before Judge W.R. Voigt today. The decision to seek the death penalty is up to Sckerl's boss, Harris County District Attorney Johnnie Holmes. Should Ripkowski avoid lethal injection in the Lone Star state, which leads the nation in administering the ultimate sanction, Salt Lake County prosecutors may choose to try the murder of Frome as a capital case.
HC - April 21, 1998
Indictment in tot's death
After his arrest, Ripkowski admitted killing the child and her mother, Monica Allen, 29, who was found beaten and strangled in Utah Dec. 22, police said. Ripkowski told police he brought the child to Houston on Dec. 24 and smothered her the next day.
HC - August 02, 1999
Jurors, relatives cry as defendant describes on tape how girl, 2, died
Three jurors wept Monday while watching the videotaped confession of a man accused of suffocating a 2-year-old girl whose body was folded into a small suitcase and buried in northeast Harris County in 1997. Relatives of the victim also cried as Britt Allen Ripkowski's confession was played during the first day of his capital murder trial. On it, he calmly explained to Houston and Salt Lake City, Utah, police how he began smothering a sleeping Dominque "Nikki" Frome. "I put it (my hand) over her head. She had a little, small head. It wasn't hard to do ... I felt her hand, her little hand, trying to pull it away," Ripkowski, now 27, said on the tape, recorded on Jan. 22, 1998. "At that point, I had to pull her closer to me and held her."
Ripkowski, who mumbled and sometimes rambled during the statement, described how he clamped his hand over the girl's mouth and nose for several minutes, or until she "quit kicking," as they lay on a couch in his Houston apartment early on Christmas Day 1997. On the tape, he also told police how he found a suitcase to put Frome's body in. "And then I came back downstairs and I had this suitcase and it just so happened to be the perfect size for her," Ripkowski told police.
If convicted of capital murder, Ripkowski will get either the death penalty or life in prison, which would mean 40 years behind bars before the possibility of parole. Testimony and evidence showed that Ripkowski once lived in Salt Lake City, where he had a tumultuous relationship with Frome's mother, 29-year-old Monica Allen. Ripkowski, a computer programmer with a drug habit, moved back to Houston after problems escalated between him and Allen, according to previous statements by police and testimony. On Dec. 12, 1997, he returned to Utah, and Allen's beaten and strangled body was found Dec. 22. Allen's body wasn't identified until mid-January 1998, but Frome was reported missing by Dec. 24, and local and federal authorities started looking for her.
Ripkowski has since been charged in Utah with Allen's death, but Texas law prohibits Harris County prosecutors from mentioning her death in the guilt-innocence phase of the capital murder trial in Frome's killing. Driving Allen's van, Ripkowski brought the girl to Houston after killing her mother, according to the evidence. He told police he meant to abandon her at a shopping center in Roswell, N.M., so she could be found alive, but he said he couldn't do it. Ripkowski told police he arrived in Houston with the girl on Dec. 24, 1997, and that he fed her, bathed her and that they went to sleep on his couch at his apartment in the 9000 block of Town Park.
The next morning, according to the evidence, Ripkowski killed the girl, stuffed her body in a suitcase and left it next to a tree in northeast Harris County. Then he went to Baytown to celebrate Christmas with his family. He told police he put the girl's Teddy bear and a picture of her mother in the suitcase with her. In his confession, he said he returned to the suitcase a week later, after buying a shovel, and buried it in a shallow hole in a swampy wooded area near Beltway 8. Later, when police found the suitcase with the help of Ripkowski, Frome's decomposing body was folded into the fetal position. No stuffed animals were found in the bag.
On cross-examination of state witnesses, defense attorney Patrick F. McCann tried to advance his contention that Ripkowski might have been high on cocaine when the girl was killed and that he had suffocated her unintentionally by cradling or holding her too forcefully. The defense also attacked Ripkowski's confession by suggesting that he was in no condition to waive his rights when he talked to police because he had been taking drugs, was suicidal and had a history of mental problems.
But in their questioning, prosecutor Kari Allen and Bill Hawkins seemed to scoff at the idea that Frome was somehow hugged to death. Every lawman who testified about Ripkowski's behavior on the day of his arrest said he appeared sober, intelligent and understood his rights. Testimony continues today in visiting state District Judge Doug Shaver's court. Closings arguments in the first phase of trial could come as soon as Wednesday.
HC - August 03, 1999
Lawyers rest cases in trial of man accused of killing 2-year-old
Both sides rested Tuesday in the capital murder trial of a man accused of abducting and suffocating a 2-year-old girl in 1997 after jurors heard conflicting testimony about possible mental illness and drug abuse. Using the testimony of a therapist, defense attorney Patrick F. McCann tried to portray Britt Allen Ripkowski, 27, as suffering from bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts and a cocaine habit.
Prosecutor Bill Hawkins ripped into that assessment during cross-examination. And two rebuttal witnesses called by prosecutor Kari Allen testified that they did not believe Ripkowski was manic-depressive. They cast doubt on the defense's contention that he was in no state to talk to police when he confessed on Jan. 22, 1998.
Ripkowski could receive death or life in prison if he is convicted of capital murder in the Christmas Day 1997 killing of Dominque "Nikki" Frome, whose body was found folded into a small suitcase and buried in a swampy, remote area of northeast Harris County. Ripkowski once lived in Salt Lake City and had a tumultuous relationship with Frome's mother, Monica Allen, 29. In December 1997, he traveled from Houston to Utah, beat and strangled Monica Allen and kidnapped Frome.
Texas law prohibits jurors in this case from hearing about Monica Allen's death before the punishment phase of the trial. But they have heard testimony about the abduction, including the videotaped confession by Ripkowski. Monica Allen's body wasn't identified until mid-January 1998, but the search for her missing daughter started soon after she was taken away. FBI agents zeroed in on Ripkowski as a suspect in January, and he confessed to Houston and Salt Lake City police after being charged.
Ripkowski's attorneys say he might have killed the girl unintentionally after getting her back to Houston because he cradled her too forcefully. They contend the longtime drug abuser could have been high at the time and didn't know his own strength when he smothered the sleeping girl. The defense also contends his confession is tainted because he was suicidal, had mental problems and used drugs in the days before his arrest. Those factors, they say, mean he couldn't have intelligently waived his rights before confessing. To boost their case, the defense used Paula Lundberg-Love, a therapist who has taught psychology to college students. She examined Ripkowski and testified that he did suffer from mental problems and drug addiction and that he wasn't competent to waive his rights.
But on cross-examination, she admitted that there was no evidence to show that Ripkowski was using drugs before he killed Frome, and she eventually conceded that the videotaped confession showed no signs that he was suffering from cocaine intoxication. Under Hawkins' prodding, Lundberg-Love also testified that she never actually asked Ripkowski if he had understood his rights and acknowledged that he might have understood them because he showed some cognitive skills on the tape.
Prosecutors called two psychiatrists to the stand --
Dr. Deborah Osterman and Dr. Thomas Brandon, both of whom screen inmates
admitted at the county jail. They said their examinations of Ripkowski showed no
signs of bipolar disorder and that his drug use could have caused symptoms that
mirror such a condition. Both experts also said that even if Ripkowski was
using cocaine around the time he confessed, which drug test results confirmed,
then he could still possibly understand his rights. Closings arguments in
the case will be today at 9:30 a.m. in visiting state District Judge Doug
8/4/99 - 2:30 pm - Breaking News -
HC - August 4, 1999
Jurors find man guilty of killing 2-year-old girl
Jurors took about three hours Wednesday to convict a man of capital murder for suffocating a 2-year-old girl he had kidnapped from Utah and later buried in a small suitcase in northeast Harris County. The jury must now decide if Britt Allen Ripkowski, 27, gets the death penalty or life in prison for the Dec. 25, 1997, killing of Dominque "Nikki" Frome. If he gets life, he must serve 40 years before he is eligible for parole.
When the punishment phase starts today, jurors may now also hear about the death of Dominque's mother, who once dated Ripkowski and allegedly died by his hand before he kidnapped the girl. "It is difficult to accept that anyone would want to hurt a small child," said prosecutor Kari Allen, who became emotional during her closing remarks. "Britt Ripkowski did. (He) committed capital murder on Christmas Day 1997."
Both Frome's relatives and those of the defendant sobbed as Allen held up a picture of the victim and urged jurors to convict Ripkowski on the most severe charge. The panel could have also convicted him on the lesser charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.
Ripkowski once lived in Salt Lake City and had a tumultuous relationship with Dominque's mother, Monica Allen, 29, according to evidence. In December 1997, he traveled from Houston to Utah, allegedly beat and strangled Monica Allen and kidnapped Dominque. Texas law prohibited jurors from hearing about Monica Allen's death in the guilt-innocence phase of this trial. But they did hear about the child's abduction, including a videotaped confession by Ripkowski.
Monica Allen's body was not identified until mid-January 1998, but the search for her missing daughter started soon after she was taken away. FBI agents zeroed in on Ripkowski as a suspect in January, and he confessed to Houston and Salt Lake City police after being charged. He not only led police to the place where he had buried the girl, but he detailed how he brought her to Houston and shut off her nose and mouth as she slept next to him in his Houston apartment. "I put it (my hand) over her head. She had a little, small head. It wasn't hard to do. I felt her hand, her little hand, trying to pull it away," Ripkowski said on the Jan. 22, 1998, tape. "At that point, I had to pull her closer to me and held her."
Allen, who is no relation to Monica Allen, softly repeated that passage to jurors. But defense attorney Patrick F. McCann argued that the confession was tainted because his client had been using cocaine in the days before his arrest, was injured from a recent suicide attempt and suffered from mental problems. So, McCann argued, Ripkowski could not have intelligently waived his rights before talking to police, and thus should be acquitted. "He was injured, broken and shattered, and they still questioned him," McCann argued. "They knew it and they questioned him."
If jurors believed that Ripkowski had legally waived his rights, then McCann said they must consider that he had not meant to kill the girl because he had fed her, clothed her and taken care of her during the trip from Utah to Houston. "Think about the shattered, mentally ill person who sits here before you and ask yourself if he intended what happened," McCann said.
Allen countered by blasting the testimony of a defense expert who said Ripkowski had a bipolar disorder and was not competent to waive his rights, in part because of his drug use. She said the expert had relied too heavily on what Ripkowski told her to reach her diagnosis. Allen pointed out that Ripkowski was intelligent enough to work as a computer programmer and that he had acknowledged knowing and understanding his rights at least three times the day he was arrested -- twice from FBI agents and once more from a Houston police detective. She also reminded jurors that Ripkowski was not diagnosed as bipolar by two psychiatrists who saw him in jail, and that he had responded appropriately during the taped confession by giving police a detailed, orderly account. As for intent, Allen told jurors that if Ripkowski did not mean to kill the girl then he would have called paramedics when she stopped breathing. Instead, she said, his first thought was to bury her.
Punishment testimony starts at 9:15 a.m. today in visiting state District Judge Doug Shaver's court.
HC - August 5, 1999
Punishment-phase testimony will continue today in the capital murder trial of a man convicted of suffocating a 2-year-old girl. Jurors who convicted Allen Ripkowski, 27, must decide whether to give him the death penalty or life in prison for the Dec. 25, 1997, murder of Dominque "Nikki" Frome .
Prosecutors presented testimony Thursday on the death
of Monica Allen, 29, Dominque's mother. She once dated Ripkowski and allegedly
died by his hand in Utah before he kidnapped the little girl. Testimony
showed that Ripkowski brought the child to Texas and suffocated her as she slept
in his Houston apartment. He then folded her in a suitcase and buried it.
HC - August 7, 1999
Slain tot's mother killed in
same way, prosecutors claim
The jury wasn't allowed to hear about Allen's murder until the punishment phase of the trial for Dominique's death started. But now they have heard evidence that shows striking similarities between the deaths of the mother and daughter, including more of a videotaped confession in which Ripkowski describes how he killed the two. Ripkowski dated Allen, 29, when he lived in Salt Lake City. But when the relationship soured, Allen got a restraining order against Ripkowski. He moved to Houston, but went back to Utah in December 1997 for a visit. He said in his Jan. 22, 1998, confession to Houston and Utah police that Allen had cheated on him.
On the videotape, he told police how he went to Allen's apartment on Dec. 22, 1997, and attacked her. "She looked at me like she knew it was going to happen," Ripkowski said. "I was face-to-face with her with my hands covering her nose and her mouth . . . I told her, `Don't worry, we'll be together again. She tried to hit me again, and then I saw her eyes roll back. I gave her a hug and said, `I'm sorry.' " Ripkowski said it took five minutes for him to smother Allen in her washroom. An autopsy confirmed she had been suffocated and suffered blunt trauma to the head.
Ripkowski told police that Dominique was watching television as he suffocated her mom. "My heart was beating 20,000 miles a minute. I wanted her buried," said Ripkowski. After cleaning the blood out of the washroom, he loaded the body into Allen's van, along with her little girl. "Nikki didn't know what was going on. I cleaned up because there was blood on the ground where I had dropped her and cracked her skull."
Ripkowski said he drove around with the girl and the body, then returned to the apartment to make sure he had not missed any blood. He then left a note saying they had all gone out with someone. As the child slept, he said, he then drove to a spot close to Monticello, Utah, near the Colorado border. In a snowy, wooded area off State Road 666, he dumped Allen's body, leaving a stuffed animal nearby. Though the body was found the next day, it wasn't identified as Allen's until mid-January 1998.
Long before then, authorities had started searching for Dominique Frome , whom Ripkowski had taken to Houston after discarding the idea of abandoning her at a shopping center in New Mexico. FBI agents zeroed in on him as a suspect after interviewing him and searching his home. He was arrested Jan. 22, 1998. After being charged, he told police how he suffocated the girl in her sleep at his Houston apartment. He then led police to a swampy area in northeast Harris County, where he had buried the girl after folding her body into a small red suitcase.
Prosecutors Kari Allen and Bill Hawkins also presented testimony from two women who knew Ripkowski. One of the women, who was from Utah, dated Ripkowski, then introduced him to Allen. The other woman lives in Houston. Both women told jurors that Ripkowski stalked them. The Utah woman filed charges against him, and he was placed on the equivalent of probation there. Defense attorneys Patrick F. McCann and Robert Morrow will begin Monday to try to convince jurors to give Ripkowski life in prison. The effort is not expected to take long, because of a highly unusual strategy they adopted, with Ripkowski's blessing.
In Texas, before a judge can sentence someone to death, jurors must answer two questions: Is the defendant a future threat to society? Is there anything that mitigates against the imposition of the death penalty? If jurors decide the defendant is a threat and there are no mitigating circumstances, then the accused gets death. If jurors believe someone is not a threat or if they find mitigation, then a defendant gets life, which means 40 years behind bars before the possibility of parole. Ripkowski agreed to waive his right to have jurors consider mitigation, so jurors will only decide whether he poses a future danger to others.
(Webmistress's note: It is believed that Ripkowski's lawyers waived the right to offer mitigating circumstances in exchange for the prosecutors' agreement to not call the parents of Monica Allen for victim impact.)
HC - August 9, 1999
Closing arguments are set today for man guilty of suffocating girl
Closing arguments will be today in the capital murder trial of a man convicted of suffocating a 2-year-old Utah girl and burying the body in a in northeast Harris County. The jury of eight men and four women will then decide if Britt Allen Ripkowski, 27, will get the death penalty or life in prison for the Dec. 25, 1997, murder of 2-year-old Dominique "Nikki" Frome. Jurors took three hours to convict Ripkowski of capital murder last Wednesday.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Ripkowski, who is also charged in Utah with the Dec. 22, 1997, suffocation death of Frome's mother, Monica Allen, 29, who once dated him and was killed before her daughter was abducted. Punishment testimony presented by prosecutors Bill Hawkins and Kari Allen portrayed Ripkowski as a vicious stalker who victimized women he had dated and killed Monica Allen and her daughter in the same fashion.
Defense attorney Robert Morrow spent Monday
trying to convince jurors that Ripkowski deserved life by presenting testimony
about the stiff parole requirements for capital murderers and the security
measures in Texas prisons. If Ripkowski gets life, he must serve at least 40
years. Closing arguments will start at 9:15 a.m. in visiting state District
Judge Doug Shaver's court.
8/10/99 - Breaking News -
HC - August 10, 1999
A man who suffocated a 2-year-old Utah girl and buried her in northeast Harris County was sentenced to death Tuesday. Britt Allen Ripkowski, 27, showed no emotion as visiting state District Judge Doug Shaver read the jury's decision, but he sighed audibly when Shaver imposed the death sentence. His relatives wept.
Afterward, the family of the victim, Dominique "Nikki" Frome, tearfully thanked prosecutors Kari Allen and Bill Hawkins. Before the decision, Nate Frome, Dominique's father, said Ripkowski, a computer programmer also charged in Utah with murdering the child's mother, Monica Allen, richly deserved to die. "I want him dead," Frome said of Dominique's killer. "He didn't ask her if she wanted to live or if she wanted to die. She didn't have anybody standing up for her. Why should he be any different?"
Last week, jurors convicted Ripkowski of capital murder for killing the little girl on Dec. 25, 1997, just a few days after Allen was suffocated in Utah. He abducted Dominique, then suffocated her in Houston as she slept. After folding her body into a small suitcase, he buried it in northeast Harris County. Ripkowski led authorities to Dominique's body after he was arrested and confessed to the killing. Her mother's body was found in a snowy field near the Utah-Colorado border on Dec. 23, 1997. She had been dumped there by Ripkowski, and the body wasn't identified until mid-January 1998.
Although Allen, 29, and Ripkowski had dated, their relationship eventually fell apart and he left Utah. But prosecutors presented testimony that Ripkowski didn't take rejection well, arguing that he was a stalker who waged "psychological terrorism" on women.
Usually, before a judge in Texas can sentence someone to death, jurors have to address two issues: if the defendant a future threat to society and if there any reason he should receive life instead of death. In this case, Ripkowski waived his right for jurors to consider mitigating circumstances, so they only had to decide if he was a future danger. They agreed unanimously that he was, and that ruled out life in prison. Defense attorney Robert Morrow argued that Ripkowski was not a future threat because he would probably spend the rest of his life in prison. He also said the state had not proved that his client would pose a future danger.
Allen, however, told jurors that Ripkowski had shown repeatedly that he was a deliberate, self-absorbed stalker who never took responsibility for his actions. Hawkins told jurors: "He is a walking, talking continuing threat. You're the only ones in this room who can prevent this from ever happening again." Dominique's paternal grandfather, Robert, welcomed the verdict. "This has made a believer in the death penalty of every family member because of the utterly depraved and evil manner in which he took Nikki's life and Monica's life." Allen's father, Andy Meza, said his wife is tormented by nightmares of her daughter's death and wakes up crying in the middle of the night.
But Cynthia Reisner, Ripkowski's mother, insisted he was not a monster. She said that he needed help, and that she had bills from psychiatrists to prove it. "There are more than two victims here," Reisner said. "Those two (Allen and Ripkowski) had a long, tumultuous history. I'm not making any excuses because they've had a tremendous loss, but so have we. He's never been a bad or violent child. He'd never been in any trouble until he met Monica. My son is not the vicious animal that they made him out to be. He loved too much and she knew it."
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