MIAMI - Johnnie Ridgeway III, a former Miami-Dade police officer who served two years in federal prison for a civil rights violation, worked hard to put his life back together.
The 51-year-old drove a tanker truck, delivering fuel overnight to gas stations. A few years ago, he'd finally saved up enough money to buy a home in Sunrise for him and his longtime wife, Sonia.
"He loved his home. It meant so much to him," Sonia Ridgeway said Thursday. "He paid for his crime, and all he wanted to do was work. He lived an exemplary life."
But his life, police say, ended violently when a killer broke into the family's Sunrise home and shot Ridgeway to death as he slept in his bed earlier this month. Now, detectives allege the plot was hatched by his own family - his wife's nephew, Michael Colon, 46, who had "bad blood" with Ridgeway, according to court documents.
Colon and his 17-year-old daughter, Ashley Marie Colon, were arrested this week on murder charges. Sunrise police detectives are also searching for a third man, identified in newly released documents as Jeremy Atkins, 29.
The arrests stunned Ridgway's family. Colon was no estranged relative - he was living with the Ridgeways in their Sunrise home.
"Sadly, we trusted and loved him and welcomed him into our home as family member," Sonia Ridgeway said. "And (Johnnie's) life was taken in a very brutal and savage way."
Ridgeway was hardly more than a rookie patrol officer with Miami-Dade police when he was arrested in the late 1990s.
Federal prosecutors alleged that over several months, Ridgeway pulled over six women, engaging a series of threats and acts of sexual misconduct, including fondling one woman. The last woman he pulled over was an undercover state agent who was participating in a secretly recorded undercover sting.
Ridgeway was not charged with state sexual battery charges. Instead, in what was billed as a novel legal strategy at the time, Miami federal prosecutors charged him with violating the civil rights of the women he pulled over.
In 1999, he pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to two years in federal prison. "I think he has decided to get it behind him and get on with his life," his attorney, Douglas Hartman, said at the time.
After his release in 2001, Ridgeway stayed clear of trouble, his wife said, and was thriving.
Colon, the son of Sonia Ridgeway's sister, has a long criminal history. He served nearly a decade behind bars for a series of burglary convictions in Miami-Dade County in the early 1990s.
In 2015, Colon was accused of robbing the wife of a visiting Chinese professor for the University of Miami, shooting the woman in the leg. He spent nearly three years behind bars awaiting trial. In 2018, a jury acquitted him at trial when his defense raised issues about conflicting details of eyewitness statements.
After his stint in jail, he moved in with the Ridgeways in Sunrise. Sonia Ridgeway said Colon drove a truck for the nonprofit group Catholic Charities.
She said she was puzzled about the source of the friction between the two men. Sonia Ridgeway recalled that their dog, a blind 13-year-old terrier-bulldog mix named Buddy, bit Colon on the hand recently. Ridgeway had offered to pay the medical bills.
"There was a bit of anger, but in the end, they were getting along fine," Sonia Ridgeway said. "I would hear them joking in the kitchen."
Sonia Ridgeway was the one who discovered her husband's body on the afternoon of Nov. 12. at their home.
Homicide detectives got a break because a neighbor's security camera captured a white Kia Optima pulling into the Ridgeway's driveway, then parking on a nearby swale just after 7 a.m. that day. The footage showed a man in a hoodie get out, get something out of the passenger seat and go back toward the home.
Moments later, the man came running back and hopped into the passenger seat before the car sped off.
Anonymous tipsters identified the car as being driven by Ashley Marie Colon, Michael's daughter. Toll and cellphone records placed her at or near the scene that morning, according to an arrest report.
Later confronted by police, Ashley admitted she'd picked up Atkins. She said he was the one who got out of the Kia, walked into the home and murdered Ridgeway, the arrest report said.
"She heard what she believed to be three or four gunshots and became upset because she thought that Jeremy would only shoot Johnnie once," according to the arrest report by Sunrise Detective Alexander Coronado.
Ashley told police that the murder plot "was constructed" earlier by her father and Atkins at Atkins' home in Perrine, the report said. Her father also called her after the shooting to ask "whether Jeremy killed Johnnie yet."
Detectives say Colon's phone records back up Ashley's account of his involvement.
Ashley was also charged, as a juvenile. Under Florida law, she can be charged with murder because police say she drove the killer there and she knew what was going to happen to Ridgeway.
Colon remains behind in Broward County's jail while awaiting his arraignment.
As for Ridgeway's widow, she says can't understand how Ashley got dragged into the plot.
Sonia Ridgeway is a retired nurse dealing with medical issues.
"It's so unfair he had his life taken that way. We love and miss him very much," Sonia Ridgeway said. "In another week, he'll be buried and I'll be alone."
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