A 23-year-old Waggaman man charged with two counts of second-degree murder was sentenced to 30 years in prison this month after accepting a plea deal from Jefferson Parish prosecutors that saw those charges reduced to manslaughter.
Samuel Ridgley III, who also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted second-degree murder, has been in prison since he was arrested for the March 2010 fatal shootings of Kedrich Steward, 17, and Lynnard Collins, 15, in Waggaman.
The attempted second-degree murder charges stemmed from the shooting of Terrence Toledano, who was critically wounded at the same time Steward and Collins were killed, and of Matthew Rutherford, whom Ridgley was accused of shooting several months earlier.
Margaret Hay, chief of felony prosecutions for the DA’s Office, noted that Ridgley was 16 at the time the crimes were committed, which could have made him eligible for parole after 35 years even if he had been convicted of the more serious crime of second-degree murder.
“Based on his age at the time of the offense and evidentiary issues that developed, the DA’s Office believed that a 30-year sentence was the best resolution for the case,” she said in a statement. “We consulted with the families of the deceased and the surviving victims in reaching this decision.”
Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a report of shots fired at 9:11 p.m. on March 7, 2010, and arrived at the rear entrance of Waggaman Playground on Dandelion Drive. There, in the dugout of the baseball diamond, they found Steward dead with a gunshot wound to the head and Collins and Toledano badly wounded.
According to court filings, Deputy Rhonda Goff, the first on the scene, asked Collins who had shot him.
"Sam and Frankie," Collins replied.
When Goff asked for a last name, Collins replied, "Sam Ridgley."
Then a second officer, Deputy Nathan Penton, arrived and also asked Collins who had shot him, this time recording the answer on his cellphone.
"You're sure Samuel Ridgley shot you?" Penton asked.
"Yeah," Collins replied.
Collins and Toledano were taken to a hospital, where Collins was declared dead.
Ridgley turned himself in two days later along with Frankie Hookfin Jr., though the District Attorney’s Office ultimately refused the charges against Hookfin.
Hookfin was arrested three years later after a botched execution at the Lapalco Apartments in Harvey, where he and three other men connected to the Harvey Hustlers street gang were accused of firing into a doorway with AK-47s and handguns, injuring three children and two elderly women who lived there.
Hookfin, who was named in the sprawling racketeering indictment that helped take down the Harvey Hustlers gang last year, was sentenced in January to 35 years in prison for his role in that shooting.
Ridgley was given 30 years on each of the four counts to which he pleaded guilty, but 24th Judicial District Judge Glenn Ansardi said the sentences will run concurrently.
Ridgley will not be eligible for parole, probation or suspended sentence, according to the terms of the two manslaughter sentences. He will get credit for time served since his arrest in 2010.