Ryan Waller’s story — His unfortunate death

When the police arrived at Ryan Waller’s residence in late December 2006, they found Heather Quan dead and Waller injured but alive. They instantly homed in on Waller as the suspect, dutifully placing him in the back of a squad car as they investigated the murder scene. 

Despite Waller’s injury, nobody bothered to check on him. In the police’s minds, Quan’s murder resulted from a domestic dispute with her boyfriend, Ryan Waller. However, the answers Ryan gave didn’t support the police’s theory: he said that Richie Carver, an old roommate, killed Quan. 

It took hours for the police to realize that their suspect was actually a victim. 

Waller survived for days after suffering two gunshot wounds to the head

Terry DenDulk, Quan’s mom, testified before the Senate that she went to Waller’s home on 23rd December 2006 to watch a movie and eat pizza. Several hours after her arrival, Ryan responded to a knock on the door. 

The knocker, Richie Carver, was Ryan’s former roommate; Ryan allegedly evicted him following a disagreement. Ryan cracked the door and came face to face with a .22 caliber handgun. Richie snuck in his hand before Ryan shut the door and shot him in the eye. 

Richie and his father, Larry, shot Ryan again, completing their revenge mission. They then shot Quan point blank in the head, killing her because she’d witnessed the assault on Ryan. Richie and Larry left the premises thinking they’d murdered the couple, but they were wrong – Ryan was still alive. 

When Waller failed to show up for Christmas, his father asked authorities to perform a wellness check. The police didn’t believe Waller when he said he was shot in the eye. A detective interrogating him opined that such a gunshot wound would have killed him. 

Throughout the interview, Waller couldn’t make cohesive statements. He did point the police to the perpetrators, but they didn’t believe him. 

Investigators realized that Ryan was a victim of the crimes six hours into the interrogation. Regardless of their suspicions about Waller, the police should have allowed him to get medical attention first. 

The hospital staff confirmed that Ryan had suffered two gunshot wounds to the head. Doctors rushed him to surgery, but he lost his left eye and a portion of his brain due to an infection. 

Waller survived but suffered seizures for the rest of his life due to the injuries. He died from a seizure ten years after the ordeal. 

Richie was convicted of murder and sent to prison for life

Despite being severely injured and having a poor recollection of the ordeal, Ryan remembered Richie Carver was the shooter. 

It’s unclear why Richie shot Ryan: One theory claims the pair had a falling out that almost resulted in a shoot-out; another alleges Richie’s romantic advances toward Quan prompted Ryan to evict him from their apartment. 

Regardless, the prosecution convinced the court that Richie murdered Quan and injured Ryan. In June 2008, an Arizona court convicted Carver of burglary, aggravated assault, murder, and misconduct involving a weapon, sentencing him to natural life and 11.25 years in prison. 

The Superior Court in Maricopa County affirmed Carver’s conviction and sentence. Court records show Richie petitioned for post-conviction relief, citing ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. 

The Superior Court granted a review of the case but declined the request for post-conviction relief. Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop ruled:

“Carver develops no argument explaining why he believes the trial court’s ruling is legally or factually incorrect, and he fails to provide detail and specificity to support his claim that he was prejudiced by trial counsel’s alleged ineffectiveness.”

Quan’s family petitioned for a law change to secure Larry’s conviction

Prosecuting Richie was somewhat straightforward, but making Larry pay for his crimes proved difficult. Larry had confessed to the killing and assault to his wife, Cheryl, who voluntarily opened up to authorities about Larry’s confession. 

However, Cheryl refused to testify during the trial, invoking spousal privilege. Cheryl’s testimony formed a crucial part of the case against Larry, so prosecutors dropped the charges. They knew Larry was guilty but couldn’t prove it in court. 

Quan’s family wouldn’t let their daughter’s killer walk free. They petitioned the Senate to pass Heather’s law, which provides that a spouse can be compelled to testify if they’d voluntarily provided authorities with information about their partner’s involvement in a crime. 

Prosecutors charged Larry again, but Judge Robert Gottsfield ruled that the law couldn’t apply retroactively. The Court of Appeals reversed Gottsfield’s decision, saying lawmakers passed the law before prosecutors filed the new charges against Larry. 

Furthermore, the court found that Heather’s law was procedural and, therefore, could be applied retroactively. The ruling sealed Larry’s conviction. Supported by Cheryl’s testimony, prosecutors convinced the jury that Larry was guilty of murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, and burglary. 

“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,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery

In late January 2013, Judge Susanna C. Pineda sentenced Larry to natural life plus 21 years in prison. The Court of Appeals affirmed Larry’s conviction and sentence.