Jury finds neo-Nazi guilty of murder in Phoenix woman's 2009 death

The Arizona Republic/January 9, 2019

By Barbara Smith

A jury has found a man accused of having neo-Nazi ties guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of a Phoenix woman nearly a decade ago, Maricopa County Superior Court officials said.

Travis Ricci, 37, shot and killed Kelly Ann Jaeger, 39, in October 2009 while she was walking with her boyfriend in a Phoenix park. 

Ricci had approached the interracial couple and began to yell racial slurs at Jaeger's boyfriend, Jeffery Wellmaker, who is black, court records show.

He then left the couple, returned later with a friend, and fired shots from a car. Documents show the shots were intended for Wellmaker, but hit Jaeger instead.

Prosecutors said the shooting was a hate-crime and that Ricci was affiliated with a neo-Nazi group, the Associated Press reported.

Ricci's first trial ended with a mistrial, after a witness revealed Ricci previously had served prison time.

The driver in the shooting, Aaron Levi Schmidt, pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the shooting. He already was serving 11 years in prison at the time of the plea for assisting in a criminal gang, officials said.

Besides the first-degree murder charge, Ricci was convicted of aggravated assault, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of drive-by shooting, assisting a criminal syndicate and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, court officials said.

The jury weren't able to reach a verdict on a count of misconduct involving weapons. Deliberations were expected to continue on that count Thursday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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