Reporter knew of Tyreek Hill audio ‘for weeks’ before source finally OK’d its release

KCTV5 reporter Angie Ricono knew for weeks about audio of the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal discussing the investigation into the injury of their 3-year-old son.

But it wasn’t until the Johnson County district attorney announced he didn’t have evidence to press charges that the reporter’s source told her to air the recording.

Ricono told The Star on Friday she was told about the audio weeks ago and received it on Monday. “But I did not have permission from my source to make it public. I didn’t tell anyone I had it.” She said the source sent the audio to her “as background” for her reporting.

On Thursday, KCTV5 reported that the audio is believed to have been made in early March when the couple were walking through Dubai’s international airport. It was sent to the station “by someone who is concerned about the welfare of the couple’s child.”

Ricono would not identify that source.

In the recording, a woman said to be Espinal is heard saying their son told her, “Daddy punches me.”

“He is terrified of you,” she says. The man said to be Hill, a 25-year-old wide receiver, answers, “You need to be terrified of me too (expletive).” The Star has not authenticated the audio.

The Star reported on March 15 that a source familiar with the situation said an incident at Hill’s home left the boy with a broken arm.

Ricono said no one else at the station knew about the audio until Wednesday, after Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced that his office would not file charges against Hill or Espinal. Howe said he believed a crime had been committed against the child but he couldn’t prove who did it.

Ricono said she received a text message from her source during the Howe announcement telling her to go with the audio.

“I walked off the set and took it to my news director and played it for him,“ Ricono said. “It is not like they had it and sat on it forever.”

She said her newsroom discussed getting the recording authenticated and how and how much of it to release. The station’s attorneys were involved in the decision to release large portions of the 11-plus-minute recording raw — without editing.

But she said the station will never release some portions because names of other persons involved with the couple are mentioned.

Ricono said she gave the audio to Howe on Thursday after it had been authenticated, but she did not say how the authenticity was determined.

She said KCTV5 did not air the audio until everyone involved, including Espinal, Hill and her source, had been notified.

“I wanted to give everyone time to respond,” Ricono said, adding that there was no grand plan to release the recording on NFL draft night.

But late Thursday night, after the draft, Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach announced Hill is suspended from team activities “for the foreseeable” future.

On Friday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid reported that the criminal case involving Hill and Espinal had been reopened.

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Mará has written on all things education for The Star for 20 years, including issues of school safety, teen suicide, universal pre-K programs, college costs, campus protests and university branding.