After a lengthy investigation, the State Attorney Office (SAO) for Florida’s Fifth Judicial District has officially decided that it will not file criminal charges in connection with the death of Ariana Ptarcinski. The SAO’s decision is the latest development in the case that began nearly two years ago.
On Christmas Eve 2021, 20-year-old Ariana Ptarcinski in Spring Hill and a man identified as then 20-year-old Ramon Durst, with whom she had a relationship for about nine months, were in Ariana’s room after spending the evening with her family.
According to her father, Ed Ptarcinski, he and his wife, Judy, retired to their bedroom around midnight. Shortly thereafter, he rose to use the restroom and saw the entry door of their bedroom open and Durst holding Ariana, saying, “I did this.” The young woman’s jugular vein had been severed, and she was bleeding, Ptarcinski said.
At the scene, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputies processed the scene and interviewed the family, including Ariana’s 12-year-old sister. Afterward, the family and Durst were taken to the HCSO, interviewed, and released.
Over the course of the past several months, Ptarcinski and others have been critical of HCSO forensics specialists, alleging that they left critical evidence, including Durst’s driver’s license, a pair of knives, and a sheet allegedly bearing Durst’s bloody handprint, behind when they processed the scene.
In response, HCSO Media Relations Coordinator Denise Moloney consistently maintained that the evidence was properly processed and that it was appropriately submitted to the SAO for further investigation and for its decision about which, if any, charges should be made in connection with the case and against whom.
In an Aug. 16 letter, Assistant State Attorney Peter F. Magrino informed the Ptarcinskis that after a review, formal criminal charges would not be filed in the case.“This filing decision is not based on the lack of quality of the investigation of any lack of investigative effort by the (Hernando County) sheriff’s office,” Magrino said in the letter. “The decision is a legal one dealing with criminal intent and the lack of evidence thereof with regard to your daughter’s death.”
Also, according to the letter, there was no probable cause to “believe a crime was committed by Ramond Durst,” as the Ptarcinski’s alleged.
“Although (the) Medical Examiner listed Ariana’s death as a homicide, Florida courts have historically held that acts of negligence cannot be made criminal regardless of the loss of human life without Mens Rea,” the letter read.
According to the Legal Dictionary website, Mens Rea refers to what the accused individual was thinking and what his intent was at the time the alleged crime was committed. “To date,” the letter went on, “Mr. Durst, through his lawyer, has exercised his constitutional right not to provide a statement concerning the incident. Thus there is insufficient evidence to sustain any criminal charges as it relates to the death in this matter.”
When the Hernando Sun contacted him by telephone, Ramon Durst answered, “Who’s this?” When we identified ourselves, Durst immediately terminated the phone call.
In response to Magrino’s letter, Ed Ptarcinski maintains that there is enough evidence to justify charges in the case and that, in the absence of court proceedings, no justice has been achieved. “It’s all corrupt, (and) every day is a battle for my family and myself just to get through the day,” Ed Ptarcinski said in a text message.
Also in response to the SAO letter, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis called the death a “heart-wrenching incident.” “Everyone, of course, wants justice if the event was a criminal act,” Nienhuis said in a written statement. He added that in any case, law enforcement investigators must “try their best to get to the bottom of what actually happened, putting emotions and outside pressures aside – handling it any other way, however, is not an option.”
“If prosecutors were to take a case to trial with insufficient evidence, because of outside pressure for example, it will be even more frustrating for everyone because, when a case is brought to trial with insufficient evidence or the defense can present a plausible alternative, the jury will have no choice but to find the defendant ‘not guilty,’” Nienhuis’ statement read. “This is why prosecutors never want to take a case to trial with what they deem to be insufficient evidence, or when there is a plausible alternative that can be presented by the defense.”
Finally, Magrino’s letter said the case might be reopened if new evidence arose. “Should the Sheriff’s office or any other person provide this office with additional and/or new information, I will review the matter again,” the letter read. “But at this time there is insufficient evidence to proceed further in criminal court.”
Meanwhile, the administrator of a Facebook page dedicated to Ariana Ptarcinski vows to keep interest in the case alive. “The recent letter has left the family, friends, and now the community who is following along with the case saddened, disappointed, and confused,” the Facebook page administrator said in a written statement. “Its contradictory nature leaves us with more questions than answers – We will continue to fight for justice for Ariana.”