The gun that killed a 13-year-old boy in a Raleigh hotel room Nov. 14 belonged to a woman who checked into the hotel that night with Randall “Randy” Louis Vater of Knightdale, who is charged in the death.
Vater’s former wife, Misty Michelle Tripp of Raleigh, says Vater is devastated by the death of Nathan Andrew Clark, a middle schooler from Lewisville who was in Raleigh with his family to play in a weekend soccer tournament.
“He loves kids,” Tripp said. “I know that he is genuinely crushed by this. I know that right now Randy feels like he killed his own child.”
Vater, 42, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a felon. Police say Nathan died after a bullet fired from the room occupied by Vater pierced the wall and struck the boy in the back of his head.
Never miss a local story.
Randall W. King of Wake Forest said that his daughter, Tammy Renee Smith Cryder, 42, of Raleigh, and Vater checked into the Comfort Suites hotel off New Bern Avenue at 9 p.m. the night of the shooting.
Tripp and King, 65, said the gun that fired the fatal shot was a 9 mm Springfield handgun that belonged to Cryder.
“She had it with her when she checked into the hotel,” King said Friday afternoon. “It’s registered in her name.”
Cryder was not charged. King said police took his daughter’s gun and her cellphone after the shooting.
“Of course it was an accident,” King said when asked whether he thought his daughter’s gun misfired. “But then again, we’ll never know, will we?”
He said he has not spoken with his daughter since the shooting.
“She’s hiding out somewhere,” King said.
The News & Observer’s efforts to reach Cryder by phone, email and visits to her North Raleigh apartment this week have been unsuccessful.
Tripp said Vater called her from the Wake County jail Friday morning.
“He couldn’t say anything, about anything,” Tripp said. “He started breaking down crying. He said, ‘Make sure my daughter is OK because I don’t know when I’m ever getting out of here.’ ”
During Vater’s first court appearance Monday, Wake County District Attorney Ned Mangum told the court that Vater’s criminal record includes 28 convictions.
Vater’s most frequent convictions have been for domestic violence charges and violations of protective orders. His longest stint behind bars has been eight months after his conviction for felony hit-and-run, felony possession of drugs and speeding to elude police on an all-terrain vehicle in 2011.
Misty Tripp sought protection through the courts from her former husband in June 2008.
Tripp told court officials that she was in “fear of Randy and his actions,” including threats from him “to kill me and burn the house down, which my daughter and I live in. He has threatened to blow the house up with a pipe bomb, while occupied,” according to records filed in Wake County civil court.
Tripp told the court that Vater threatened to kill her entire family. “States that if he can’t have me, nobody will. To death do us part,” court records show.
Tripp said Vater had two rifles and that he fired the weapons in their home on at least three occasions. She stated that he also had fuses and black powder used to make pipe bombs.
Two months after Tripp filed the protective order, Vater was charged with violating the terms of the order and communicating threats. He was sentenced to four months in prison, according to the state Department of Correction.
Tripp renewed the protective order in July 2009 after Vater was released from prison and resumed unwanted contact with his estranged wife. She told the court that she remained in fear, court records show.
Vater was sentenced to prison again in April for violating another domestic violence protective order filed by a former girlfriend, Elizabeth Anne Dean, 42, of Cary.
Dean is the mother of Miranda Barbour, the 19-year-old dubbed the “Craigslist killer” after police charged her and her newlywed husband, Elytte Barbour, with posting an ad on the popular website offering female companionship. The Barbours were accused of strangling and stabbing a man nearly 20 times in Pennsylvania last year. They were both sentenced to life in prison.
Vater was convicted of violating Dean’s protective order and spent six months in prison. He was released on Oct. 25, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
Tripp said that while he was behind bars Vater frequently called his daughter, Samantha, who is 19.
“He told her that when he got out of jail, he promised, ‘I won’t get into any more trouble,’ ” Tripp said. “He wanted to help her be successful.”
Though his marriage to Tripp was long over, the two had become friends. They grew up together on Kemp Drive outside Knightdale and started dating when she was 15.
When Vater was released from prison last month, he spent time with his daughter each day, Tripp said. The two attended the State Fair together, and he found part-time work helping a friend repair neon signs, she said.
“He was trying to be the father he hadn’t been able to be because of all the stupid mistakes he had made in his life,” Tripp said. She added that Vater “had no guns whatsoever. He can’t because he’s a felon.”
News researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.