Armed robbery, shooting suspect found guilty

Published 2:08 pm Friday, April 13, 2012

Two days of court proceedings ended with a guilty verdict on three charges against Matthew Thomas Rickman.

Rickman was arrested in June 2010 for his part in an armed burglary and shooting that left one man disabled.

After all of the testimony was heard, jury members were sent to deliberate on three charges against Rickman, aggravated assault, armed robbery and convicted felon in possession of a firearm. By early Thursday afternoon, the jury had come back with a verdict of guilty on all three counts.

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Part of the jury instructions could have put Rickman behind bars for life on the armed robbery charge, but not all of the jurors could agree on that stiff of a sentence, leaving Circuit Court Judge Tony Mozingo to make that decision during a sentencing hearing scheduled for April 20, said Circuit Court Clerk Vickie Harriel.

Testimony heard by the jury showed that on June 6, 2010, then 33-year-old Rickman and his accomplice, then 22-year-old Thomas Sanchez, broke into the rear entrance of Wolfgang Netsch’s home on Harvey Burks Road in the Pine Grove Community. According to the testimony, Rickman broke down the back door to the home and Sanchez did the shooting.

Netsch told the Item after court proceedings that during the break-in he could hear someone attempting to enter his home at the back door, prompting him to get up. Just as he arrived at the back door, he saw a foot break through the door, and Rickman grabbed Netsch. During the struggle, Netsch said he saw the barrel of a gun, later determined to be held by Sanchez, through the door opening. Sanchez fired at Netsch three times as Netsch struggled with Rickman, hitting him in the abdomen, chest and right arm. Netsch said he is now disabled from the damage the .22 caliber bullets caused.

Netsch has had to sell his motorcycle because of his disability and still has a bullet lodged in his hip, he said.

“The only good thing I got out it was a handicapped tag,” Netsch said, displaying his sense of humor.

He did not know, until he was told by one of the suspects, that he had been shot that he knew he needed to call for help.

“I felt no pain,” Netsch said about the gunshot wounds.

Rickman knew Netsch prior to the crime from odd jobs he had done for the man, such as carpentry and yard work.

Netsch said he has known Rickman since about a year before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and most of his dealings with Rickman revolved around Netsch providing Rickman with handouts. After the events that transpired during the robbery, Netsch said he has become a lot less trusting, and now keeps three guns in his home.

Netsch also had an opinion on what he would like to do with Rickman had the jury not come to a guilty verdict.

“If you don’t want to lock him up, send him to me for 10 minutes with a dull knife,” Netsch said.

However the jury found Rickman guilty of all charges, even though he did not pull the trigger of the gun with which Netsch was shot.

Assistant District Attorney Monya Creel Bryan said during the trial that Rickman was  guilty of the shooting because he aided and abetted the other suspect in the crime and the large size of the gun — a .22 caliber lever action rifle — meant it could not be concealed by Sanchez.

Sanchez pleaded guilty to the charge of armed robbery on April 6. He, too, will be sentenced on April 20, said Assistant District Attorney Clay Cranford.

Rickman had a prior conviction on robbery charges in Utah, Bryan said during the trial.