Stonington Police ask for help in finding missing woman

Lucia Ritacco. Courtesy Stonington Police Department

WESTERLY — The search for a missing Pawcatuck woman ended Wednesday after officials said her body was discovered at about 10:30 a.m. in Winnapaug Pond, near the Weekapaug Breachway.

Stonington Police Capt. Todd Olson announced that the body of Lucia Ritacco, 68, had been found; a silver alert issued by the police on Christmas Eve was canceled. "The remains were sent to the Rhode Island medical examiner's office," Olson said. "The case remains under investigation, although nothing appears to be suspicious at this time."

Stonington police asked for the public's help after Ritacco's family approached the department around 4:30 p.m. on Monday to report that she was missing. Her family indicated that she had left home to do some errands earlier that day and never returned. She was last seen around 8:30 a.m., police said.

According to Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey, a surfer saw her vehicle, a 2001 Jeep Cherokee, parked in the fisherman's parking lot on the Misquamicut side of the Weekapaug Breachway on Monday, Christmas Eve. When the surfer returned on Christmas Day and the Jeep had not moved, he reported it to the police.

Westerly police coordinated a search in partnership with the Stonington police, Rhode Island State Police, Watch Hill Fire Department, Dunn's Corners Fire Department, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

"Watch Hill responded with a drone to conduct an overhead search of the area but because of the winds, a minimal amount of data was obtained," Lacey said in a press release. "State police responded with a cadaver K-9 and a search revealed a possible point of entry into the breachway. Dunn’s Corners also responded with a boat and conducted a search of the area."

Because of concerns over tidal conditions, the search was ended Tuesday night. Officials gathered at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, intending to continue the search, but Lacey said it was canceled after the body was found.

"We obtained information from a surveillance camera that showed what appeared to be a person in the water traveling in a fast-moving current toward the pond," he said. The images were obtained from the Weekapaug Fire District office, police confirmed.

Lacey said the DEM staff took a boat into Winnapaug Pond and located Ritacco's body at the shoreline around the sharp bend at the end of the breachway. The body was taken by boat back to the docks on Weekapaug Road and turned over to the medical examiner.

The family was immediately notified, Lacey said. An autopsy has been scheduled for Thursday.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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Lyndsley

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