WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The capital murder trial of Byron Jack Rickard, 45, of Wichita Falls, came to a close on Thursday, August 25, 2022, after a jury of 7 men and 5 women found Rickard guilty of brutally beating 91-year-old Ruby Ditto to death in April 2019.
The trial began Monday, August 22, 2022, in the 30th District Court, with Judge Jeff McKnight presiding over the case. Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie was the lead prosecutor on behalf of the State of Texas.
Rickard was indicted for Ditto’s murder in 2019, however, it took over three years to see the case go to trial after Rickard was ruled incompetent to stand trial.
Rickard’s long criminal history, including an alleged assault of his roommate with a tire iron just a few months before Ditto’s murder, reveals just how compassionate Ditto was when she hired Rickard to help her work on her rental properties.
“It’s an incredibly sad case,” Gillespie said. “It was a brutal and savage murder of a 91-year-old widow who was just trying to help a man out.”
During his closing arguments, Gillespie addressed the jury before they began deliberating. With a hammer in his hand, Gillespie forcefully struck a table seven times, the approximate number of times Rickard was alleged to have struck Ditto with a hammer on April 28, 2019, leading to her death two days later.
“She trusted the wrong person,” Gillespie said. “He took advantage of her, and hit her 7 to 8 times in the head with a hammer and stole quite a bit of cash from her.”
The fact that Rickard robbed Ditto prior to the assault that led to her death is the reason he was charged with capital murder. The case was handed over to the jury at around 9:45 on Thursday morning for them to decide whether or not they agreed with the arguments Gillespie and the prosecution made.
The jury returned a guilty verdict in just under one hour.
“Her life matters to us, it mattered to that jury,” Gillespie said. “I appreciate the jury for their verdict in this case.”
A person found guilty of capital murder, by Texas law, can receive a sentence of either life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Because of Rickard’s mental health issues addressed during the trial, Gillespie said it would’ve made pursuing death very hard.
However, Gillespie said he thinks justice was still served.
“Life in prison as a result of that is an appropriate sentence,” Gillespie said. “It protects the community. It values Ruby Ditto’s life.”
Gillespie was sworn into his current role in 2018, promising to be an active district attorney for Wichita County. Early into his first term, however, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down courtrooms for over 18 months, creating a massive backlog of cases.
Since trials returned to Wichita County courtrooms, Gillespie has prosecuted a number of high-profile trials, including the murder trials of Migel Matthew and the retrial of Justin Love, as well as the child sex crime trials of Nelson Head, Anthony Williams, Roy McLeran, and Michael Corey.
In all of those cases, the defendant was found guilty, and justice was served. The same can be said for Rickard, who will spend the rest of his life behind bars.