Felony weapons charges against a Running Springs man were dismissed on Sept. 20 in a San Bernardino Superior courtroom after the deputy district attorney prosecuting him informed the judge the defendant had committed suicide.
Randall Jay Rusciolelli, 47, sent a typewritten letter announcing his intentions to The Mountain News shortly before shooting himself in the head on Sept. 19. The letter said he intended to kill himself while seated "under my favorite tree."
The letter said Rusciolelli was a lifelong gun collector. It also denied allegations by a former girlfriend that he had threatened her life.
Rusciolelli, a 20-year full-time resident who owned a plumbing company, was arrested at his Firwood Drive home Sept. 2 after his unidentified one-time girlfriend phoned sheriff's department dispatchers to say he had threatened to kill her and that he had numerous weapons at his home.
Authorities obtained a search warrant and arrested Rusciolelli after he reportedly tried to flee on foot, reportedly armed with a loaded pistol. Rusciolelli's letter did not comment on why he attempted to flee.
Approximately 50 weapons were found in his home, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition, including tracer rounds, whose possession is illegal in California, deputies said.
Rusciolelli, who court records say had no prior criminal charges, was free on $500,000 bail at the time of his death. He faced seven felonies, including threatening a crime, three counts of possessing an explosive device in a public place and three of possessing an assault weapon.
The charges were dismissed by Judge Richard V. Peel at the request of prosecutor Karen Khim. Her motion came during a disposition hearing. Khim told the judge she had confirmed Rusciolelli's death with the sheriff's department, and moved for dismissal in the interests of justice.
According to a sheriff's report, Rusciolelli called his ex-wife's workplace at 4:32 p.m. on Sept. 19 and left her a voicemail saying he was going to kill himself at home. The woman told authorities she could hear a gunshot and moaning as the message played.
Rusciolelli's letter said he was "a collector of fine firearms both military and commercial." He placed the value of his collection at $283,000.
The envelope which held his letter also contained a photocopy of what purported to be a temporary permit for one assault weapon, issued Dec. 9, 1990, by then-Attorney General John K. Van De Kamp.
Rusciolelli denied the threat charge and said it was made by an ex-girlfriend who had called him "at all hours of the day and night" after their breakup.
"I am not a survivalist, paramilitarist, nor a right or left-winger," his letter said. "I am an American citizen who loves to go into the desert to shoot rifles, pistols and shotguns.
"My guns have never killed any living thing, and in my 31 years of target shooting no harm has ever been inflicted upon any beings," he wrote.
Rusciolelli's letter also included a handwritten message. "This is not a reckless act," he said of his impending suicide, "as the bullet may lodge in the tree bark if it exits my scull (sic)."
His 10-paragraph letter ended with a political statement. "We Americans are losing too many of our rights under the guides (sic) of terrorism laws," he wrote.
After noting that, if convicted, he could expect to spend from one to six years in prison, Rusciolelli typed an apology to all his friends.
"But I cannot handle that I am now penniless, homeless and about to lose my freedom over my zealous collecting," he wrote. "Thank you for all the times we had. It is better to die a free and armed man than a broke, imprisoned and unarmed one."