A second-degree murder charge against William Sprague III will be dropped today in Oneonta City Court, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said.
Muehl said he met with Sonja Ridge's family after receiving a final report from forensic pathologist Dr. James Terzian late last week.
Sprague, 27, was charged Nov. 13 after he and another man were allegedly seen attempting to carry an unresponsive and partially clad Ridge, 26, into a River Street apartment early that morning. Ridge was pronounced dead shortly afterward at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital.
The other man, Robert Riley, 29, lives at the River Street apartment but was not considered a suspect and never charged. A source close to the case said Riley responded to Sprague knocking on his door for help. Riley, Sprague and Ridge were at downtown bars that morning. Riley left in a taxi, while Sprague and Ridge went to the River Street apartment in her car, police previously said.
Although police initially said they believed Ridge died from head trauma inflicted by Sprague, an autopsy showed she died from a ruptured brain aneurysm, according to Muehl.
"I could never prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.
However, Muehl said the Oneonta Police Department acted appropriately in arresting Sprague.
"I believe the police had plenty of probable cause to arrest him and hold him," Muehl said.
The initial findings from the medical examiner also pointed to homicide, he said.
But within a few days after Ridge's death, sufficient doubt _ centered around the discovery of the aneurysm _ arose in the case to merit Sprague's release from Otsego County jail, where he had initially been held without bail.
Muehl said Ridge's family understood his decision to drop the charge.
"They have been more understanding than I could ever expect. The family understands the position that I am in," he said. "They are, of course, disturbed by all the unanswered questions."
Muehl said there is no indication Ridge knew she had a brain aneurysm.
There was also no evidence an assault or sexual assault had occurred, he said, noting she had underwear on at the time police arrived at the scene.
Ridge suffered bruising to her head, but it was never clear if the bruising was sustained from an assault, a fall associated with the aneurysm or from her being carried to the apartment by the two men, he added.
Muehl said Assistant District Attorney Michael Getman will formally withdraw the felony complaint today in Oneonta City Court.
A file on the case will be maintained in the event any new evidence comes to light, he said.
The statute of limitations for assault is five years, he said. There is no statute of limitations on a murder charge.