Arizona Neo-Nazi Who Shot White Woman Because She Was With a Black Man Avoids Death Penalty

A neo-Nazi who was found guilty of murdering a white woman after he saw her walking with her black boyfriend has been sentenced. The jury rejected the prosecutor's push for the death penalty for 37-year-old Travis Ricci. The jury instead ordered him to serve life in prison.

Ricci shot Kelly Ann Jaeger while she was walking through a park in Phoenix, Arizona, with her boyfriend Jeffery Wellmaker in October 2009.

Prosecutors said Ricci began yelling racial slurs at Jaeger and Wellmaker after becoming irate at seeing the interracial couple. Ricci then went home to retrieve a shotgun and returned in a car with co-defendant Aaron Schmidt to fire at them twice.

Maricopa County prosecutor Ryan Green said Ricci had intended to kill Wellmaker in the drive-by shooting, but hit Jaeger instead, reported AZ Central.

On January 9, he was found guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of drive-by shooting, assisting criminal syndicate and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Schmidt was previously sentenced to nine years for his involvement in the drive-by shooting and is scheduled for release next April, reported ABC 15.

During the trial, prosecutors said that Ricci was a member of the far-right Vinlanders Social Club, a skinhead group described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being known for their "drinking, brawling and following a racist version of Odinism, a form of ancient paganism once practiced by Vikings."

His lawyers, Jennifer Willmott and Bruce Blumberg, argued he should be spared the death penalty because his life of violence and crime, which includes previous convictions for armed robbery and kidnapping, can be linked to his abusive childhood.

The defense team said his father repeatedly beat him as a child and his mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Willmott and Blumberg accused the state of Arizona of failing to protect Ricci after they returned him to his mother instead of placing him in care after she had left his father.

"The people who were supposed to nurture him, neglected him," said Willmott, reported Phoenix New Times. "The people who should have protected him, rejected him. And the people who were supposed to love him, tortured him."

Willmott also said Ricci only joined the skinhead group while in prison as a replacement for the family he never had.

Green rejected the idea of leniency for Ricci while detailing several other examples of extreme violence he carried out during his life. He added that Jaeger was murdered "by the confident 28-year-old man who chose his own path."

The court also heard how nearly two years after the shooting, Wellmaker had played chess with Ricci while he was in prison for a separate case and failed to recognize him, reported the Associated Press.

Ricci is already serving a 22-year sentence for assault and weapons misconduct from a unrelated conviction.

Travis Ricci
Neo-Nazi Travis Ricci has been sentenced for killing a white woman he saw walking with her black boyfriend in 2009. Arizona Department of Corrections