American man awaits news of fate in Turks and Caicos ammunition case

The Turks and Caicos legislature just amended its strict firearms ordinance removing the mandatory minimum 12-year sentence for those guilty of firearm offenses

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One of the remaining three Americans charged in the Turks and Caicos Islands will be in court Friday.

Ryan Watson of Oklahoma will be sentenced on possession of ammunition charges.



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This comes as the island government has made an amendment to the strict firearms ordinance that Watson and the other Americans were charged under.

Ryan Watson and his wife Valerie spent Thursday morning passing out action bibles at a Christian school in Turks and Caicos Islands.  A donation effort was spearheaded by their 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter after their dad was arrested for possession of ammunition in April.

The family has donated more than a hundred bibles to children on the island over the last two months.

“It's just been a whirlwind, ups and downs and highs and lows, like I can't even describe to you,” says Susan Fendley, Watson’s mother.   “He's anxious to get home to his family and to his life and to his job.”

Fendley has been on the islands while her son’s case moved through the court system.

Watson is one of five American tourists recently detained on the islands after mistakenly bringing bullets in their luggage.  Watson, who was arrested after a 40th birthday trip to TCI,  will be sentenced tomorrow.  Sharitta Grier of Florida and Michael Evans of Texas still have cases pending.

“With the events of the last few days, definitely we are feeling more hopeful,” says Fendley. “We feel, somewhat, more secure that that things will go well for both Ryan and Sharitta.  We've just learned not to take anything for granted.”

The Turks and Caicos legislature just amended its strict firearms ordinance removing the mandatory minimum 12-year sentence for those guilty of firearm offenses.

Courts now have the discretion to impose either a custodial sentence, a fine or both, rather than mandating both imprisonment and a fine for all firearms offenses regardless of the circumstances.

Bryan Hagerich, who received a suspended sentence and fine and returned home to Pennsylvania last month, was detained on the island for 101 days.  He thinks the amendment is a step forward, but says the law still poses a risk for American tourists.

“It still at the end of the day, in my mind does not solve a lot of the challenges that that come from the current, the new firearms ordinance,” says Hagerich. “The process you have to go through and the timeliness, you know, for somebody to have to spend three and a half months of their life, to essentially be told by a judge that you need to be more careful when you pack your suitcase next time. It's wild.”

Hagerich says his experience in Turks and Caicos Islands has had lingering effects on him and his family,  especially his two children. 

“Unfortunately throughout all this, they were essentially collateral damage,” he says.  “And we did everything we could to try to maintain as much normalcy as possible.  But by no means, you know, is our life back to normal.  This takes a lot of time to recover from emotionally, physically, mentally, financially.  I mean, every possible way, it's taken a hit on our family.”

If Watson is not sentenced to prison time, he hopes to be back in Oklahoma tomorrow night and reunited with his kids, who he hasn’t seen in two months.

Michael Evans will be sentenced on possession of ammunition charges Monday.  And Sharitta Grier, who was arrested last month, will be in court next Tuesday for a plea hearing and arguments in her case. 

Tyler Wenrich of Virginia was sentenced to time served and paid a fine at his sentencing May 28.

Tyler Wenrich was one of five Americans arrested at the popular vacation destination for possession of ammunition, a charge that carries a mandatory 12-year sentence in Turks and Caicos. A judge found exceptional circumstances in his case. Follow NBC10 Boston on... Instagram: TikTok: Facebook: X:
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