Man regrets another milestone missed
Gary Ritch gave up his daughter, Harlie Brook Carter, for adoption when she was only 2. He missed out on the milestones in her life, but he was there on June 4, 2010, when the SBI came out to tell him one of two bodies found in a burned-out Ford Mustang off Power House Road in Rhodhiss may have been Harlie's. Ritch got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"I knew that was her," he said. "That was her Mustang they found, it was a convertible."
Now, Ritch says he missed another milestone. He said he was not told that one of the three men connected to Carter's death, 22-year-old Dylan Shane Teeters, would be in Caldwell Superior Court on Tuesday to plead guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder. Teeters, who helped set fire to the car in an attempt to destroy evidence of the killing, was sentenced to eight years four months to 11 1/2 years in prison.
Ritch was himself in prison, serving seven months for driving while impaired, when the man who killed Carter, Justin Ray Hester, 26, was convicted Feb. 11 of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms without parole, and when another man who set fire to the car, Matthew Bradley Powell, 24, was convicted May 20 on two counts of accessory after the fact of first-degree murder and was sentenced to between 11 and 15 years in prison.
Ritch didn't want to miss this hearing too.
"I wanted to see the look on his face when he was being sentenced," Ritch said. "They left us all in the dark. I found out Tuesday evening when my daughter Natasha called and told me she found out on the Internet."
Ritch, 47, said he had called the district attorney's office, the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office and the Caldwell County Clerk of Court's office and asked to be notified when Teeter's case came up in court.
"The DA's office had notified Harlie's adoptive parents through each stage along the process, and they attended the plea hearing," District Attorney Jay Gaither said. Gaither declined to talk about Ritch's situation.
The amount of time Teeter will spend in prison added to Ritch's frustration.
"It was like a slap on the wrist," he said. "I don't know how these boys got by with what they did. They'll be able to go outside, eat, watch TV in prison. They will have the rest of their lives once they get out."