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Judge dismisses murder charge against soldier's wife

DETROIT -- A judge dismissed a first-degree murder charge against the wife of a Persian Gulf War veteran who was shot dead less than 24 hours after returning to his family from his tour of duty in the Saudi desert.

On Monday, District Judge Vesta Svenson freed Toni Cato Riggs, accused in the March 18 death of Army Spec. Anthony Riggs. Her brother confessed to the killing, saying it was part of a plot to reap insurance benefits.

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Svenson had ruled earlier in April the confession could not be used against the 22-year-old woman, and said Monday that there was otherwise insufficient evidence for the charges against her.

'I do not believe there is sufficient cause to bind over. There is no sufficient evidence on each element of the crime... This defendant is discharged,' Svenson said.

The Wayne County prosecutor's office indicated it would appeal the dismissal and the judge's ruling on the confession.

Riggs, 22, a member of a Patriot missile crew in Saudi Arabia, was shot to death in front of his in-laws' home 10 days after returning to his Army base in Texas from the Persian Gulf and less than 24 hours after arriving in Detroit to move his wife and 3-year-old stepdaughter to an apartment.

Michael Cato, 19, the soldier's brother-in-law, confessed to the killing, saying he did it because his sister offered him part of $175, 000 life insurance benefits. Cato has been bound over for district court trial.

In the ruling earlier this month, Svenson said Michael Cato's statement was 'in essence the only substantive evidence against Toni Cato Riggs.' The judge said using the statement against her would violate her constitutional right to confront her accuser.

It was originally thought Riggs had been the victim of random urban street crime, but investigation into the shooting revealed disturbing details and criminal charges followed.

During the probe, it was disclosed Toni Riggs was still married to another man when she wed Riggs.

A native of Las Vegas, Riggs was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, before being deployed to the Persian Gulf last September.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson delivered the eulogy at Riggs's March 23 funeral.

Anthony Riggs's mother, Lessie Riggs, filed suit in Detroit Monday to declare her son's marriage to Toni Riggs void because of bigamy. She also seeks permission to remove her son's body to her hometown of Las Vegas.

No money is being sought but the suit seeks to bar Toni Riggs from handling the estate. Toni Riggs stands to collect $175,000 in insurance money as Anthony Riggs's wife and beneficiary.

In the suit, Lessie Riggs says that when her son married Toni Cato, he was unaware that she was still married to Marcus Butler and committing bigamy. The case was assigned to Wayne County Circuit Judge John Murphy.

Included with the suit are documents showing Toni Riggs married Butler in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 2, 1987. Under the name Toni D'Andrea Cato, she married Anthony Riggs in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 1989, and then under the name Toni D'Andrea Butler was granted a divorce from Butler in Detroit on Nov. 2, 1990.

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