Teenagers Convicted, Appeal Sentence

Daily Sitka SentinelJune 29, 1983, Sentenced ANCHORAGE (AP) William Plumley, one of three teenagers convicted of killing an elderly Honolulu Creek woman near Cantwell, was sentenced Monday to 100 years in prison. Plumley, 19, had been convicted on March 30 of murder and burglary in the death of Mildred Landesman, 63. He was the second of the three youths to be sentenced by the court. James Ridgely Jr., 17, was convicted March 18 of murder and theft. He was sentenced to 114 years imprisonment. Shelly Bosch, 18, was convicted of second-degree murder and is scheduled for sentencing July 5. Prosecutors said Plumley planned the murder.

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Daily Alaska Sentinel
Sept 9, 1985

Associated Press ANCHORAGE  – The Alaska Court of Appeals, on Friday ordered a new trial for one of three teenagers convicted of clubbing an elderly woman to death, saying the youth’s confession should not have been allowed as evidence. James Ridgely Jr. had been sentenced to 114 years in prison for his role in the August 1962 bludgeoning death of 63-year-old Mildred Landesman near Cantwell. But Ridgely, 16 at the time of the killing, may not have understood interrogators who told him he could remain silent and get a lawyer, the appeals panel said in a 2-1 ruling.

Ridgely, whose IQ was measured as 78, may have been high on LSD and had not slept before his confession, said the Opinion by Chief Judge Alexander O. Bryner. “The picture of Ridgely that emerges from the record is that of a young offender who — although obviously dangerous and profoundly antisocial — is immature, unsophisticated and severely limited in his intellectual ability,” the opinion said.

Piecing together facts from the three teenagers’ confessions, the appeals court gave this version of the killing: Ridgely and two friends, 17-year-old Shelley Bosch and 18-year-old William Plumley, were hitchhiking from Anchorage toward Fairbanks in August 1982, when they stopped near Cantwell. They found a trailer that they believed to belong to a friend’s family, broke the lock and settled in. On Aug. 21, Ridgely went to the nearby motor home of Mrs. Landesman and invited her to the trailer for lunch.

The three told police they had plotted to kill Mrs. Landesman so they could steal her car. When she entered the trailer, Bosch and Plumley distracted her and Ridgely clubbed her in the head with an ax handle. The three hid her body, stole food and money from the woman’s motor home, then drove the car and motor home away. They abandoned the motor home along the Parks Highway, then continued on to Anchorage in the car.

The next morning, police in Anchorage stopped the car and arrested Plumley for reckless driving. After checking the car’s registration, they arrested Ridgely and Bosch for joyriding. During questioning, Bosch told police of the killing. Plumley corroborated her version. When Ridgely was confronted with their statements, he confessed, then asked to see an attorney.

Defense attorneys for all three teenagers later argued that their confessions should be suppressed, but Superior Court Judge Victor Carlson suppressed only statements made by Plumley when first stopped by police. The appeals panel upheld Carlson’s ruling for Bosch’ and Plumley, saying they confessed voluntarily.

But the court said it is not certain Ridgely understood his rights to remain silent and have a lawyer during questioning. Lack of sleep and drug consumption before police interrogations put Ridgely in an “extremely agitated emotional state,” the panel said. Judge Robert G. Coats dissented, saying the lower court was correct in ruling that Ridgely’s confession was voluntary. In addition to reversing Ridgely’s conviction, the court ordered a review in the cases of Plumley and Bosch, to determine if allowing Ridgely’s confession affected their convictions. Bosch was sentenced to 104 years in prison for second-degree murder and theft. Plumley was sentenced to 109 years in prison for first-degree murder and burglary.


State v. Ridgely
732 P.2d 550 (1987)
STATE of Alaska, Petitioner, v. James A. RIDGELY, Jr., Respondent. No. S-1197.
Supreme Court of Alaska.
February 13, 1987

Respondent James Ridgely, a 16-year-old, was one of three teenagers indicted for murder and other charges connected with the death of Mildred Landesman in August, 1982. Prior to trial, Ridgely and his alleged accomplices, 18-year-old William Plumley and 17-year-old Shelley Bosch, moved to suppress all of their statements to law enforcement officials, including a confession by Ridgely. After a hearing, the trial judge denied the motion. Ridgely and Plumley were subsequently convicted in separate trials of first degree murder, and Bosch was convicted of second degree murder. The trio appealed on several grounds, including denial of the motion to suppress.

The court of appeals reversed the trial judge’s decision as it related to Ridgely’s confession, holding that the state had not met its burden of proving that the confession was voluntary and that Ridgely had effectively waived his Miranda rights. Without reaching the other issues raised on appeal, the court of appeals reversed Ridgely’s conviction, remanded Ridgely’s case for a new trial, and remanded Plumley’s and Bosch’s cases for further proceedings to determine the admissibility of evidence derived from Ridgely’s confession. We reverse as to the voluntariness issue and remand for consideration of the remaining issues raised on appeal.

Applying the clearly erroneous standard of review to the trial judge’s findings of historical fact and drawing our own inferences from the record as to Ridgely’s state of mind, we conclude that Ridgely’s confession was voluntary.

We REVERSE and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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