Ryan Patrick Hare was three days shy of his 18th birthday on Nov. 30, 2008, when he led three other teens through a bizarre murder plot that left an Apex High School student dead and a community wondering what led to the peculiar incident that had the makings of a dark screenplay.
Hare, 25 now, is in Tabor Correctional Institute — N.C. prison system’s offender No. 1228029.
He has been incarcerated in the state prison system since Sept. 24, 2010, when he was convicted of the first-degree murder of Matthew Silliman, an Eagle Scout and high school senior who struggled with bipolar disorder.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that could bring Hare back into Wake County Superior Court for a new hearing on whether he should still face a life term in prison without the possibility for parole.
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In the Supreme Court case, Montgomery v. Louisiana, the justices ruled 6 to 3 that a 2012 high court decision banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively.
Though inmates who committed the crimes before their 18th birthdays have a right for review of their sentences, prosecutors and juvenile justice advocates caution that some might find themselves facing the same fate again. The high court ruling provides the inmates an opportunity to present evidence that could persuade a judge that they can be rehabilitated and should have a chance to leave prison before their lives are over.
The ruling this week builds on a U.S. Supreme Court decision from June 25, 2012, when the justices decided that mandatory life in prison without parole was cruel and unusual punishment for offenders younger than 18 at the time of their crimes.
That ruling struck down a law in North Carolina that dated back to the mid-1990s, when structured sentencing went into effect and first-degree murder convictions brought automatic sentences of lifetime imprisonment with no parole.
During the past decade, though, the high court increasingly has found that equating offenses committed by adolescents, whose brains are not fully formed, to those done by adults is constitutionally and morally wrong.
Hare is one of 79 inmates identified in a March 2015 report by the state prison officials who could qualify for a new sentencing review. Another 77 inmates have been identified as serving life sentences, but have an opportunity for parole.
Since Monday, district attorneys in N.C. have been combing through records, looking for cases that might qualifiy for new sentencing requests.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday her office had not yet determined how many cases she might see. The Hare case quickly sprang to mind. It was a high-profile trial, and troubled many.
The two-week trial in Wake County Superior Court in September 2010 exposed a world in the suburbs of southwestern Wake County where teens struggled with depression, self-mutilation, alcohol and drug abuse. Misfits and outcasts were drawn to each other, finding fellowship together on the fringes of high school life.
Silliman's lifeless body was found Dec. 2, 2008, inside a sleeping bag in the bathroom of a vacant home owned by the family of a teenage girl also implicated in the crime. Prosecutors contended that Hare was jealous of a relationship Silliman had with the girl, Allegra Dahlquist, who is 25 now, and serving a 28-year prison sentence for second-degree murder and for several other charges related to the incident.
Hare, who also was convicted of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, spent several weeks prior to the killing at the New Hill horse farm hatching a scheme to strangle Silliman.
By that time, according to testimony from the trial nearly six years ago, Silliman’s mental and moral faculties had been breaking down. Once energetic and enthusiastic, Silliman had become dark, in his moods and appearance.
Hare preyed on Silliman’s vulnerabilities, according to trial testimony, persuading the high school senior and the other teens involved in the plot that a shadowy figure named Roger — a hit man that neither the prosecution nor the defense could ever prove to be real — was out to end his life.
According to testimony, on the night of Nov. 30, 2008, Hare, Dahlquist and two other teens — Aadil Shahid Khan and Drew Logan Shaw — gathered at the horse farm in a remote area of the county. While there, Hare hit Silliman on the head with a hammer but failed to knock him out. Then, three of the four teens accused in the case offered Silliman a choice — either be killed or kill himself, according to testimony.
Though medical examiners testified that asphyxiation was the cause of death, they also confirmed testimony from the other teens that Silliman had consumed a large amount of wine shortly before his death and ingested enough painkillers and antidepressants to impair his ability to reason and react.
Silliman passed out that night, according to testimony, and clear plastic bags were wrapped around his head and feet. Zip ties were cinched around his arms, legs and neck. Duct tape was stretched across his mouth.
The teens then left Silliman and it was not until Dec. 2, 2008, that his body was discovered.
Khan, 24 now, is serving a sentence for second-degree murder in Warren Correctional Institute with a projected release date of July 2041.
Shaw, the least culpable of the group, was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. He is 23 now and out of prison. His sentence was a minimum of three years and nine months, according to state prison records.