A Fort Drum soldier who stabbed his newlywed wife to death nearly 20 years ago died in prison Monday.
Riccardo Callender, 40, died in the Walsh Regional Medical Unit of Mohawk Correctional Facility. A spokeswoman for the state prison system said Callender died of natural causes.
Callender was 21 when he killed his wife inside their apartment in Calcium on June 12, 1994. He used a kitchen knife to stab Elizabeth Rachelle Weilandt, according to a story published at the time.
They had been married 22 days.
The next year, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He also remarried to a Watertown woman, according to a story in the Watertown Times.
For at least the last several years, Riccardo Callender served his sentence at the maximum security prison in Auburn. While in prison, he got a college degree in the humanities and social sciences from a program jointly run by Cayuga Community College and Cornell University.
He received his degree in a prison ceremony in 2012. (Our picture is from that ceremony.) Callender recently had his writing published in The St. Petersburg Review, a publication that prints "quality fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama."
Marge Wolff, the program coordinator, recalled Callender Wednesday as "a tutor, a mentor to new students.
"He encouraged guys to stick with it, told them the value of the program."
Wolff recalled Callender helping other students with math and writing papers.
""He created quite an atmosphere within our program."
Jim Schecter, the former director of the program, said Callender "was a very diligent, consistent and quiet student."
Both Schecter and Wolff said they make an effort to not know too much about why someone is in prison; the emphasis in the program is on learning and on what a student can be.
So when Wolff thinks about the man she knew, and the crime he committed, she says "It's so hard to connect the two."
(Read Riccardo Callender's obituary here.)
Friday, November 27, 2015, Watertown, NY