Scientist sentenced for marriage death plot
HE WAS a supposedly gifted scientist.
But as his marriage unravelled, the contraption remorseless Robert Wayne Ridgeway built to kill his wife was an "inept" failure. And now the engineer has been sent to jail.
Ridgeway, 64, plotted to kill his wife Pepita by gassing her as she slept in a caravan at Doonan on the Sunshine Coast.
Jurors found him guilty of attempted murder on Monday.
At sentencing on Thursday, prosecutor David Finch said the American engineer built a gas canister and hose apparatus to introduce nitrogen into the caravan to asphyxiate Mrs Ridgeway.
Mr Finch said Ridgeway tried killing his wife after she threatened divorce and asked him to prepare to leave.
"This was not spontaneous offending" but deliberate and planned, Mr Finch said.
Mrs Ridgeway was alone and asleep when her husband actualised his plans.
She woke up on July 5 2016, heard hissing gas, and called police.
Mr Finch said the crime had upset the couple's children but the father had shown no remorse.
"The unusual feature of this case…is the lack of violence," defence counsel Catherine Cuthbert said.
She said the attempt was "inept" and Ridgeway didn't lock the caravan or secure the hatch.
An appropriate sentence was up to nine years jail, Ms Cuthbert said.
Citing the lack of violence, Justice Glenn Martin agreed it was an "unusual case".
There was no "moment of great passion", Justice Martin added.
"This was obviously something you thought about."
Justice Martin said if Mrs Ridgeway hadn't woken up, "she may well have died gasping for air". Ridgeway was unemployed at the time.
He was sentenced to 10 years jail and will not be eligible for parole until serving 80 per cent of his sentence.
The scientist had been in custody almost two years, so 696 days counted as time served.
Ridgeway previously lived in Utah, Germany, and Chile, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In 2008, a Utah website featured him in a "celebrity lookalike" contest where he was quoted saying children used to think he was Indiana Jones.
"They used to say I look like Christopher Reeve, but now people say I look like Harrison Ford."
Earlier this week, Mrs Ridgeway told NewsRegional her husband's idleness and anger issues might've influenced his offending.
She said Ridgeway frequently indulged in "gaslighting" or emotional abuse and had manifested his aggression by smashing furniture.
She said her husband was an intelligent, urbane man but was also interested in "conspiracy theories" and survivalism.