The Murder of Craig Rideout
It seems odd that with as many cases that I have studied and written about that any case would surprise me, but it still happens, and this is one of them. I am not surprised that the perpetrators in the murder of Craig Rideout were caught, no, most murders are solved. But, what surprises me is that the perpetrators must have truly believed that they could get away with it and even still did not seemingly cover their own tracks in any way.
It is common knowledge that when someone dies, let alone is murdered the first person investigators look at are those closest to the victim. This always starts with the spouse, or ex-spouse or companion. Then of course if that person can be cleared investigators move on to the next closest people, sometimes being grown children. It still amazes me that, especially in this day and age, that anyone thinks they can get away with murdering a spouse, or ex-spouse. And yet, every day it seems we hear of another case in which that is the believed outcome. It is so commonplace now that as soon as the story hits the newspaper it is speculated that the spouse was involved.
In the early morning of July 20, 2016 the body of Craig Rideout was found on the side of a rural road in Yates County New York. This was obviously no accident or even suicide. No, not only had he been beaten and was obviously bloody, but it appeared that some sort of acid had been used on his face and hands in an attempt to at the very least delay identification. On top of this the body was wrapped in a tarp. There was even a shovel near the body and signs that there had been attempts to dig a hole. It would take dental records to officially identify the body and the medical examiner would determine that the cause of death had been strangulation.
The day after the body had been found, and yet to be identified, Craig Rideout's sister, Robbyn, reported him missing. She had made several attempts to reach her brother but they had all failed. In an effort to contact him she had gone to his home. It was there that she found Craig's estranged wife, Laura wiping down counters in the kitchen. Robbyn found this odd on many levels. First, the couple had been separated for quite some time and were going through a rather contentious divorce and custody battle for the two youngest of their seven children. Secondly, according to Robbyn, Laura rarely cleaned the home when the couple had been together, let alone it seemed odd she would clean a home she no longer lived in. It was not completely clear if the home Craig lived in at the time of his death had been a home once shared with Laura or if he had moved since their separation. It appears that it did not take authorities long to determine that the body they had found belonged to Craig Rideout.
It also did not take authorities long to suspect that not only Laura had been involved, but also her boyfriend, Paul “PJ” Tucci and even two of Laura and Craig's sons, Colin and Alexander. Some of my research indicated that Colin and Alexander were arrested the day after the body had been found when the two boys were near a park. In the trunk of their car was a garbage bag of bloody clothes, Craig's wallet with his ID and his keys to his home. However, other research indicates that they were not arrested until the following week when both boys, and their mother were arrested. I am going to go with the second finding because in my opinion they still had to run testing on the clothing they found as well as other things. DNA testing on the bloody clothes determined that the blood belonged to Craig. On September 6th Paul Tucci was also arrested for evidence tampering. Authorities argued that he had been seen on surveillance video paying cash for the tarp, bungee cords and bottles of drain cleaner the night before the body had been discovered.
In December of 2016, less than five months since Craig Rideout's body had been found a grand jury indicted all four defendants on charges ranging from second degree murder, tampering with evidence, and burglary. All four would face trial together in June of 2017.
Prosecutors believed that the murder had been planned by Laura because she was angry that Craig was fighting her for custody of the two youngest children. She wanted to move to North Carolina with Tucci and take the children with her. Investigators found that despite the fact that custody had not been settled Laura and Tucci had signed a lease for an apartment on July 15, 2015, five days before Craig's body was found. Jurors were shown surveillance videos for the three days leading up to the discovery of the body that showed Laura, Tucci, and Colin on shopping trips to the local Walmart where they seemingly bought items to help them commit the murder, including the shovel and work gloves. Investigators found a homemade garrote in the basement of Craig's home and came to believe this was what was used to murder him. Investigators had also found a garbage bag pulled from a pond apparently near either the site in which Craig's body was found or somewhere else in which some of the defendants could be linked. Inside the bag they found five drain cleaner bottles, like those found in the surveillance tapes, bleach wipes and work gloves. It is unclear whether there was any DNA testing done on these items.
The trial lasted four weeks. There were fifty witnesses and almost 700 pieces of evidence presented to the jury. While the defense attorney's cross examined these witnesses to plant seeds of doubt about not just possible DNA contamination but also to attack Craig's character, none of them called any witnesses of their own and each rested immediately.
It took the jury of eight men and four women five days to come to a conclusion as to the guilt of the four defendants. Paul Tucci would be found not guilty on all charges. According to the jury while they may have believed he was likely involved they did not believe there was enough evidence to prove so. When it came to now nineteen year old Alexander the jury found him not guilty of murder, but did find him guilty of tampering with evidence. The jury did come to believe that both Laura and Colin were guilty of second degree murder, and tampering with evidence. Laura was also found guilty of burglary. I can only assume this charge came from proving she had been in Craig's home the day his body was discovered.
The trio were sentenced in October of 2017. Laura's attorney attempted to once again to attack Craig's character. He pointed out she came from a Roman Catholic family that was very anti-abortion, hence the seven children. They also alleged that Craig had been mentally ill and apparently untreated to which she was subject to domestic abuse. There were additional allegation that two of her children had been conceived after Craig had raped her. There was apparently no evidence to prove these allegations. For their second degree murder charges Colin and Laura both received a sentence of 25 years to life. Laura received a second sentence of 15 years for 2nd degree burglary. In addition Colin, Laura and Alex were sentenced for tampering with evidence. They received sentences ranging from 1-4 and 2-8 years.
A week after his acquittal, Tucci was caught by the media leaving the county jail after visiting Laura and Alexander. He was quoted as saying that the jury had got it wrong and that Laura and Alexander were innocent. He had not visited with Colin.
Many of the jurors spoke after the verdict. They did believe that not only was the investigation “sloppy” but that the prosecution did a “poor job” painting the timeline to lay it all out and they felt they were left to figure it out on their own. I suspect that this comes from the strange fact that they tried all four defendants together and it became difficult to show who did what, when, and keep it straight.
As I always do I checked the Department of Corrections to see what information I could find on defendants. I was unable to find Laura. An article published in November of 2017 stated she had been moved to a “state prison in Westchester County” but I could not find her. This sometimes happens with some higher profile cases or in cases in which state inmates are sent to another state to be held. Either could be true in Laura's case I suppose. As far as Colin goes he is eligible for his first chance at parole in November of 2043. His first parole hearing is to be held in July of that year. This does not mean he will receive parole, just that he is eligible. Alexander has his first parole hearing in June of 2019 with an eligibility in March of 2020. He is also eligible for “conditional release” in November of 2022. His maximum release date is in July of 2025.
I have often said that no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors but it is times like this in which that works against people. Was Craig abusive as was claimed? That is not clear. But, to not come out with any allegations of abuse until after the man was found murdered and disfigured on the side of a road surely does not help the defendants. I would like to sit here and say that he was not abusive in any way and that I felt confident in that decision. However a comment given to the media by his family left me wondering what kind of father he was. The family stated, “Craig Rideout was a great man, a son, a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a great-uncle, a mentor and friend to many.” I found it extremely odd that he man had seven children, five of which who were not accused of being involved in his murder and yet, it was not mentioned what a great father he was. In the end, it is still not a defense for murder, and I do believe that at least some of the correct people are paying for their crimes, but I do not believe the entire story has been told.