Judge to decide if man tried to kill ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend with natural gas

A Waterman man had no intention of killing anyone when he tampered with the gas line at his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend’s Elburn home in 2020.

Frank E. Ryan, 35, just wanted to scare the guy and stop the girlfriend from going home, defense attorney Paul Johnson told Kane County Judge David Kliment on Friday during the trial of Ryan for attempted murder.

But Assistant State’s Attorney Lori Anderson said Ryan only talked about wanting to scare them after a detective suggested the concept to her during Ryan’s interrogation.

She said buying the materials used, visiting the house several times, delivering a letter to the victim and inventing an alibi showed he had planned and taken “substantial steps” – a legal requirement for the charges – in the process. intent to hurt someone.

“It’s not someone’s actions or behavior that’s trying to scare someone,” Anderson said.

Ex-girlfriend Kelsey Pranaitis Rittgarn was not home in the 500 block of Downing Street at 2:30 a.m. on January 19, 2020. But boyfriend she has since been married to, Richard Rittgarn, and son 27-year-old son Aaron slept in their bedrooms on the second floor.

Richard Rittgarn testified Wednesday that the smell of natural gas woke him up. He heard a whistle.

He found a hole behind a credenza in his office. A plastic tube protruded, through which gas passed. He blocked it with a pen. Outside, he saw that the tube was connected to the gas line at the meter.


Firefighters determined that the level of natural gas in the air inside the home was 2-3%. At 5%, the gas would have been flammable. It could have caused an explosion that flattened the house and killed anyone inside, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Huneke of the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District testified Friday. He said natural gas can asphyxiate people.

Police traced the manufacturer’s measurement marks on the tube to a lot sold on a spool at the Ace Hardware store in Sugar Grove. The store’s video showed Ryan buying a 12-inch drill bit and duct tape with his loyalty card.

Elburn Police Detective John Shepard testified that 2×4 inch pieces of wood attached to the tube and counter had distinctive grooves that matched wood found at Ryan’s, where police also found the drill bit .

Police said duct tape covered a video doorbell at the Elburn home. The doorbell was not working at that time.

Richard and Aaron Rittgarn were uninjured.

Kelsey Pranaitis Rittgarn said she dated Ryan for eight years and they broke up in November 2019. They were still in touch as they shared ownership of multiple dogs.

She said that Ryan knew she was involved with Richard Rittgarn and that Ryan once came to the house to look for her. He also texted her on Jan. 10, 2020, that he was doing things he could go to jail for, she said, and he asked her to take care of the dogs if he was arrested.

Police say Ryan asked his father to wear Ryan’s Fitbit fitness tracker on the night of January 18-19 to show that Ryan was not in Elburn.

Kliment will announce his verdict on Tuesday.

About Catherine Sturm

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