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Man Who Gave Assistance To Girlfriend’s Killer Awarded Custody Of Their Child

In a few short weeks, the 4-year-old son of a murdered Spokane woman will be taken away from the only parents he knows, and given to the man who gave criminal assistance to his mother’s killer.

“It’s like losing my best friend,” said David Wilson.

March 11, 2013, was the worst day imaginable for David and Carrie Wilson. Carrie had to identify her daughter by her tattoos.

“It has taken me 2.5 years just to be able to just look at her picture and just see her and not the big hole in her face,” Carrie said.

Court documents paint a brutal picture of Heather’s final moments of life. Heather was kidnapped and handcuffed. She was able to briefly break free, only to be caught by her killer near SFCC and shot at point-blank range in the face.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to live. I wanted to die,” Carrie said.

Police only added to their agony when they told the Wilsons who was behind Heather’s death. Detectives arrested the father of Heather’s child, Jon Ritchey, along with his uncle, Gary Stoddard. Prosecutors charged them both with murder. Court documents point to the possible motive: Who would get to raise the couple’s little boy.

“He’s the one who had everything to lose when Heather said she was going to take him to court for custody,” Carrie said. “Seems like two weeks after that, she was gone.”

With the child’s mother dead and his father in jail, David and Carrie were all he had. Slowly, together, they started rebuilding their lives. That was until that deep wound was reopened.

Jon Ritchey’s murder charge was dropped. In its place was a plea deal for rendering criminal assistance in Heather’s murder. With credit for time served, Ritchey was a free man. And the worst was yet to come for Heather’s family. Jon Ritchey wanted his child back.

After a four day trial, a judge awarded him full custody.

“If he would have been a drug addict who got clean, you know, I understand that part,” Carrie said. “But he was involved in a murder, and of the child’s mother. Where should he have any rights? He took those rights from Heather. She never gets to see her little boy again.”

Right now, Ritchey gets weekly play dates and therapy sessions with his son. Overnight visits will come in June and by July, the boy will be out of the place he’s called home for the past three years.

“I felt like I was being torn up from the inside out,” David said. “He’s my child.”

The law disagrees. The court decided Mr. Ritchey is currently able to meet his son’s basic needs and has the capacity for providing appropriate parenting and care for him. They said he’s employed and even enrolled himself in a nurturing father’s class since his release from jail.

Spokane Family Law Attorney David Crouse has been doing this job for more than 20 years and said this is how our state works.

“There’s absolutely no question that you do have to move mountains now to prove that biological parent is unfit,” he said.

Crouse said Washington judges have to look at the current status of the biological parent.

“It makes a lot of people involved in the system sad,” he said.

But not as sad as Carrie and David who will soon live again with that all too familiar ache of loss.

The grandparents are working on an appeal but they’re financially strapped. If the appeal doesn’t work, the only way Carrie and David will see the boy again is if Jon Ritchey agrees to that.

Grandparents in Washington don’t have rights to their grandkids like other states. The group Grandparents Rights of Washington State is pushing initiative 1431.

It would give grandparents the ability to petition the court for visitation. They need 250,000 signatures showing support by July 8. If they succeed, it will be on the November ballot.

 

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