I literally just hung-up the phone with a representative from the Huttonsville Correctional Center (HCC). This is where convicted felon Austin Vantrease is currently incarcerated for the crime of malicious wounding in the beating of my son, Ryan. He was transferred there a few weeks back after spending a couple of weeks at Martinsburg Correctional Center (MCC). My guess is he was at MCC for diagnostic testing related to his parole hearing.
I’m told that Vantrease’s parole hearing, scheduled for next Wednesday, July 25th, is postponed. They reported to me that the parole board didn’t get all the information for the hearing; like diagnostic and behavioral reports, for example. They didn’t have another date scheduled yet, but will notify me when it is.
From what I read and my conjecture, the rescheduled hearing is probably delayed until late-August when the parole board makes its rounds back to HCC. From what I understand, they return once a month at each site in the rotation.
Now, having an extra month notice should work to our benefit in getting more public sentiment before the parole board. It’s already been spectacular! Still, I am asking anyone who is willing to send the letter — either by fax or mail — making your desires known for Austin Vantrease’s parole. I’m really counting on Ryan’s friends to step-up big time here. He needs you as much as when he was actively a part of your life. I have absolutely no doubt he would do it for you. Hell, knowing him, he would lead a campaign among all friends! I know he would, in fact. This is one instance where Facebook could really facilitate this objective of getting people to write.
With this in mind, I’d like to share a letter from a dear friend of Ryan’s. It’s extraordinary and might be a resource for ideas to include in your own letter, as it is quite comprehensive. If you’re pressed for time, there’s a quick version I drafted (just click here to see it) that you can just copy, paste, and send. Obviously, it is more persuasive if you can add your own flavor to it.
Office of the Commissioner/Parole Board
Inmate Vantrease, Austin (DOC# 51398-2)
1409 Greenbrier Street
Charleston, WV 25311
I am writing to you to request that you deny the parole request of Inmate Vantrease (DOC# 51398-2) who was convicted of Malicious Wounding. He attacked one of my dearest friends, Ryan Diviney, when he was down on the ground, punting his head like a football, causing a catastrophic brain injury. Ryan will never be the same.
Ryan is one of my dearest longtime friends. We have known each other since second grade. We rode the school bus together and went to homecoming and proms in the same group. We were both happy students and athletes amongst our classmates at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Virginia. Ryan could really make me laugh, and we were great friends. We spent many, many hours together at my house and his while growing up. We went off to separate colleges, but still remained steadfast friends. I had planned to go the West Virginia University to visit Ryan for the weekend that included the night of the horrific attack, but my participation in student government at Virginia Tech kept me safely in Blacksburg, Virginia. Instead, I ended up leaving Blacksburg the morning after the attack, departing the student leadership experience to come to the side of my dear friend, Ryan, whose life was in peril from the attack involving Inmate Vantrease. Ryan has never been the same, and neither have I or our group of friends.
Inmate Vantrease’s actions have taken away Ryan’s ability to enjoy life or to even be cognizant of it. Ryan is engrained in most of my memories growing up. I played softball with his sister when we were younger, he went camping with me and my family every Memorial Day weekend, and Ryan avidly supported my campaign for Student Government Vice President in high school. I can still picture Ryan wearing a t-shirt that said “Vote Kaitlyn” on the front and “She’ll do the Student Body Good” on the back. He loved that t-shirt, he loved life, and he loved me and our friends. Ryan was a good person; he was hilarious, dynamic, spirited, charismatic and bright. He was a promising young man with big plans and much to offer. While growing up Ryan was a very popular guy that was full of life. One could not help but be charmed by his charismatic appeal, and his memorable presence is missed to this day. My friends and I have now graduated college, and this is but one milestone taken from Ryan by Inmate Vantrease, who viciously attacked Ryan.
When considering Inmate Vantrease’s request for parole, I ask that you understand Ryan Diviney is not and will never be the same person that he was prior to suffering traumatic brain injury. Ryan and his family have endured the unimaginable, and so have my friends and I. Our group will never be the same. Ryan was an integral member of our group of friends, and we still miss him. I often lament how Ryan was stopped in time by this attack, while my friends and I have been able to move forward with our lives. It is unfair, and I know in my heart how much Ryan would hate his situation.
Ryan is in such a state as to make it difficult for many people to even visit him. It is just too heartbreaking for some. When I first visited Ryan after the attack he still looked like himself, I couldn’t see that part of his skull was missing because of the severity of the brain swelling. The next time I saw him at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, the left side of his head was sunken in, almost like what a melon looks like when a wedge has been cut out of it. It was horrifying and distressful, and very, very sad. He was still storming repeatedly at that time; he almost died many times. Sometimes I wonder how he has managed to survive but then I look at his family who tirelessly cares for him, and I have my answer. He cannot survive without their 24/7 care, and they care for him lovingly without fail. No one can visit Ryan whenever there is any hint of illness, and this has inhibited my ability to see him. This makes me sad.
Good moments for Ryan are when he is non-responsively sitting in a specialized chair into which he was lifted. Regular moments for Ryan include therapies intended to keep his body strong in the unlikely event of a return to consciousness. Ryan will be undergoing surgery in the near future to have his eyes stitched almost completely shut in an effort to ward off blindness related to dry eyes since he can no longer blink normally. Bad moments for Ryan include bladder infections, nervous system storming, or near-fatal bleeding from the brain stem that send his family into fear and panic. If you consider that you can just then begin to comprehend that even Inmate Vantrease’s maximum sentence of 10 years pales in comparison to the prison that Ryan endures within his own body on a daily basis.
Ryan Diviney, his entire family, and our group of friends and I received a “Life Sentence” at the hands of Inmate Vantrease. The situation is truly very dire with Ryan. It is important for the Commissioners to understand how bad it really is with Ryan. Physically he is alive but there is no responsiveness. Inmate Vantrease killed the essence of Ryan, yet his body lives on entrapping his very soul. He cannot hug or even acknowledge his family that tirelessly cares for him. He is unable to survive without artificial feeding and 24 hour per day care. He is catastrophically injured, and he is the single most horribly injured person that I have ever known. Inmate Vantrease essentially ended Ryan’s life but could not be charged with murder since Ryan lives on within his body. Sadly, his mind does not appear to do the same. Bottom line is that he is profoundly injured and in a persistent vegetative state.
Ryan’s condition is overwhelming. All I can tell you is what I know: Ryan Diviney was a fun-loving and bright college student that was so full of promise. Ryan Diviney was hilarious. Ryan Diviney was well liked and much loved. Ryan Diviney had aspirations; he wanted to become an attorney and possibly a politician. Ryan was a good son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew, neighbor, and friend. Ryan was a natural athlete. Ryan Diviney was someone with the capacity to be able to do great things. I sometimes wonder if it might have been different had I gone on that weekend trip to West Virginia University. Would it have changed something, thrown off the timing of the chain of events, and resulted in a different outcome? I will never know the answer to these questions, but I can certainly tell you that I never would have imagined the horror that was to come. Ryan Diviney is unable to care for even his most basic needs or to communicate. I miss Ryan, and so do all of our friends.
Ryan comes from a good family, and neither Ryan nor his family deserved what happened. I will always love Ryan no matter what his condition, but it is important for you to know that I miss my friend Ryan the way he was before he was so viciously attacked. I also miss the peace and happiness that his family enjoyed prior to this attack on their beloved son and brother.
Another thing that has absolutely horrified me throughout this entire time period is how unkind and unremorseful Inmate Vantrease and his family seem to be. They seem to forget that Ryan is the victim here, and they have not done one kind thing for the Diviney family – no apology, no court ordered restitution, no donation, nothing. His mother, brother, and friends actually shouted mean spirited comments at Ryan’s father, Mr. Ken Diviney, when he was attempting to walk to his car after the trial where Inmate Vantrease was found guilty. Inmate Vantrease’s father stood idly by doing nothing to stop the mayhem, and deputies had to ensure Mr. Diviney’s safety. The Diviney family needs security from the victim support unit of the legal system every time they attend anything in support of Ryan, who cannot speak for himself. I ask you to consider that these same people would undoubtedly be the support system to which Inmate Vantrease would be released. It does not seem to me that it would be a situation that would positively foster Inmate Vantrease’s reintroduction to society. I honestly believe that releasing Inmate Vantrease would be a violent threat to both the Diviney family and unsuspecting law abiding citizens.
I ask that you do everything that you can to ensure that Inmate Vantrease not be granted his request for parole. Rather, Inmate Vantrease should receive the maximum punishment allowable under the law. Further, I ask that you consider that Ryan’s life remains in peril of succumbing to the injuries inflicted upon him during the vicious attack that changed his life and the lives of so many. Please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information on the impact to Ryan, his family, his community, and to me and his friends.
It brought tears to my eyes…