Ryan Waller’s story – The truth of what really happened on Christmas Night 2006

Ryan Waller

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the principal treatment given to people who find themselves on the other side of the law. But for 18-year-old Ryan Waller, the Phoenix police booked him as a murderer at first sight when he was, in fact, a victim. The course of events that followed changed Waller’s life forever.

On an ordinary Christmas night in 2006, Waller and his girlfriend Heather Quan were shot during an armed robbery carried out by a father-son duo. As luck would favor, Waller managed to survive the attack but Quan did not. The case is notable for its botched investigation and the barrage of misinformation spread by the media. But the truth of what actually happened that night could not be any more different.

Contrary to media reports, Ryan Waller and Heather Quan were victims of robbery and had no personal relationship with the perpetrators

Heather Quan
Heather Quan

Ryan Waller and Heather Quan had been dating for nearly eight months and had recently moved in together. Waller had just graduated high school while Quan was a college student. They rented a house with another roommate, Alicia, in Phoenix, Arizona. On December 25, 2006, Richie Carver and his father, Larry Carver broke into their backdoor and fired shots.

Waller was hit in the face and Quan was shot in the head and left to die. The Carvers then burglarized the place and stole some electronics and a guitar, which would never be recovered. Unbeknownst to them, Waller had survived the shooting but Quan died instantly. She was 21 years old.

Media reports claimed that Ryan Waller and Richie Carver were former roommates and the shooting was a result of a previous armed altercation between the two. However, it has come to light that Waller had no personal relationship with Carver and had never been his roommate.

Carver had been a previous tenant of the house where Waller then presently lived with Quan and Alicia. He was kicked out of the house by his roommate Eric. It is known that Eric and Carver had a disagreement leading led to Carver’s eviction. Waller then rented the house and was Eric’s new roommate for a while. Later, Eric moved out and Quan began living with Waller.

Waller and Carver had only met twice before the shooting. First, when Carver approached the house seeking his mail that had been forwarded to the old address and another time when he was caught snooping in the backyard claiming to have lost his pet iguana. Whereas, Heather Quan had never met him.

The armed conflict is believed to have happened with Eric and Carver instead of with Ryan as Eric had once warned Carver to stay away from his property with a gun. The misinformed reports claimed that the Carvers stole several firearms from the house but Waller only owned a small handgun. Moreover, the gun was not stolen during the attack.

Hence, for reasons unknown, Carver and his father decided to rob Waller’s house on Christmas night, presumably thinking they won’t be home during the holidays.

Ryan Waller had sustained a bullet wound to his head and was held under investigation for six hours before receiving any treatment

When Ryan did not turn up for the family Christmas dinner and failed to answer calls, his parents drove to his house. They called the police when no one answered the door and requested the force to conduct a wellness check on Waller.

The police arrived at around midnight and noticed a body from the window. However, they refused to break in and waited hours for a search warrant. At this point, Alicia had come home and gone directly to her room, not noticing anything amiss in the living room. She answered the door when the police knocked again.

Upon investigation, they found Quan’s dead body and immediately arrested a wounded Waller on murder suspicion. Apparently, the officers thought that the gunshot wound on Waller’s face was a black eye. They assumed that he and Quan had been involved in a domestic dispute before she was killed. They treated the murder case as a scenario of domestic abuse gone wrong.

Waller was kept in the police car for four hours and made to spend another two hours being interrogated, all the while when he was having a traumatic brain injury from the gunshot. The now infamous interrogation video shows a disoriented Waller giving incoherent answers to simple questions asked by the lead detective Paul Dalton.

In an ideal situation, he should have been provided medical attention at the earliest. More than six hours had passed when detective Dalton noticed the wound and finally allowed the paramedics to have a look at Waller.

The father-son duo, Larry and Richie Carver, was arrested for the murder of Heather Quan and the attempted murder of Ryan Waller

Richie and Larry Carver

After the police realized that Waller was innocent, they were able to arrest the actual culprits. During the interrogation, Waller said that “Richie and his dad” broke into the house and shot them. He told detective Dalton that Carver “used to live” at the house. Dalton misconstrued the statement and decided that Waller was talking about an ex-roommate.

Acting on the tip, the police first arrested Richie Carver. Larry had immediately fled to California after the crime, carrying the 0.22 caliber murder weapon with him. However, he was later arrested.

Following their arrests, Larry’s wife, Cheryl, gave an interview to the detectives where she corroborated that Larry and Richie left on December 25, 2006.

They had left on the pretext of recovering Richie’s belongings from his previous home and to confront someone about a “pistol whipping” incident. According to her, Larry confessed to the murders as he said the following when he returned home:

“I’ve just f—ed up, I killed two people, and I gotta get out of here.”

But just before the murder trial for the Carvers was to begin, Cheryl recanted her statement and claimed that she did not remember Larry’s confession. She also claimed that she had lied to the detectives about the incident out of spite for Larry over their “very rocky relationship”.

The case against Larry was dismissed as the evidence against him was based on the confessions made to his wife. He was acquitted after Cheryl invoked her spousal testimonial privilege and refused to testify against her husband in criminal proceedings.

Richie Carver, on the other hand, was convicted of felony murder, burglary, aggravated assault, and misconduct involving weapons. He eventually confessed to the crime and was sentenced to life imprisonment without a possibility of parole in June 2008.

This was not his first stint in prison as Richie not only had juvenile records for numerous assaults and domestic violence but had also already served a four-year prison term for armed robbery.

Larry Carver was finally convicted in 2012 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2006 attack on Waller and Quan

Since Larry walked free due to his wife’s refusal to testify in court, Heather Quan’s family appealed to the legislature to amend the spousal privilege.

The amended provision, which came to be known as “Heather’s Law” in Arizona, revoked the privilege in cases where a spouse voluntarily provides information to the police about their spouse’s involvement in criminal activities.

The passing of “Heather’s Law” was followed by three years of a legal battle over the topic of reopening Larry’s case. In November 2011, the Court of Appeals ruled that Cheryl could testify in Larry’s case and he was reindicted and charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, burglary, and aggravated assault.

On December 14, 2012, the ten-day trial and the two-day jury deliberation came to an end with the Maricopa County Jury finding him guilty on all counts. Thus, Larry Carver was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole on January 25, 2013. He also had previous arrest records for domestic violence and assault.

“Today’s verdict is a long-awaited milestone on what has been a tortuous and difficult road to justice for the victims of this terrible crime, requiring an extraordinary detour through our state legislature. We now await the imposition of a sentence that will appropriately hold this defendant accountable for his criminal actions,” said Bill Montgomery, the Maricopa County Attorney.

The Waller family sued the Phoenix Police Department for $15 million but the lawsuit was dismissed

Although it has not been publicly reported, the Waller family had indeed sued the police as speculated. They filed a $15 million lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Department and the City of Phoenix for mishandling the case of Ryan Waller.

The preparation for the lawsuit went on for four years before it was unceremoniously dismissed just three weeks before the trial was due. It turned out that the City of Phoenix filed a “Motion for Dismissal” with the court on the basis of a brain expert’s evaluation that the delay in Ryan Waller’s treatment would have made no difference to the extent of his injuries.

The city positioned that Ryan would have sustained the same injuries even without the six-hour delay and the lawsuit was dismissed by the judge. However, Ryan’s family has come forward with the views of an expert brain surgeon from Florida who thinks otherwise.

“[The brain surgeon] would have testified that when a brain is bleeding, it is swelling and when it is swelling, catastrophic damage is being done, so every minute was critical,” said Don Waller, Ryan’s father.

The family suspects corruption on the part of the city attorneys, police officers, and detectives for getting the case dismissed in fear of the jury ruling in favor of the Waller family.

The Phoenix police are alleged to have fabricated the details of the case to cover the tracks of their negligence

Other allegations against the police include extreme negligence and fabrication of case details such as changing the date of the incident from December 25 to December 23 to skate accountability. Detective Dalton was also incriminated for tampering with evidence but he received zero repercussions from the police force.

The police report allegedly contains false claims stating that the shooting happened two days before the real date. The reasoning behind this action is to buy more time between Ryan being shot and treated in an attempt by the police to divert focus from their delayed medical response.

On December 23, 2006, Waller spent the day at his parents’ house helping them remodel the bathroom. Moreover, Alicia testified that the incident happened on Christmas night. Also, Quan’s obituary and tombstone list the date of her death on December 25, 2006. According to Waller’s surgeon, his wound was fresh and had no signs of it being a two-day-old injury.

Today, the Waller family hopes for the word about the injustice to reach the public in an effort to gain enough exposure and pressure to reopen the case. They anticipate getting their “day in court” against the Phoenix Police Department.

Ryan passed away on January 20, 2016, due to a seizure caused by his injury – He was 27 years old

Due to the delay in treatment, Waller suffered an infection in his brain that prevented him from undergoing immediate surgery to remove the bullet. He was operated on three days later on December 28, 2006, after the infection was sustained. He spent 35 days in the hospital.

The bullet had entered through the left side of his face and had traveled to his left temporal lobe. A bullet splinter was stuck behind his left eye and caused brain swelling. Additional damage was caused by a piece of bone lodged in his brain along with fragments of his eye socket. He also had a broken jaw from being tackled to the ground by the police during the arrest.

Waller permanently lost his left eye and experienced severe seizures afterward. Expert brain surgeons have opined that the extent of his infection and injuries could have been avoided if he had received a timely medical intervention.

“He was like somebody with Alzheimer’s. He would tell you the same story over and over again or he asked the same question over and over again. He had the worst seizures that you could ever imagine,” Don described Ryan’s health after the surgery.

Waller moved back with his parents and spent the remainder of his life under their care. He continued to sustain multiple injuries due to his regular seizures. On January 20, 2016, his last seizure took his life after he hit his head in the fall and bled out in a grocery store. He was 27 years old.