Warning: Photographs (at bottom) might be disturbing to some.
Last Wednesday, I followed my daughter, Kari, with my Victim Impact Statement to the Parole Board. Her words were so powerful… so heart-wrenching… so compelling… so real, that I wondered if mine were really necessary. Well, at least if they were necessary for the Parole Board, that is. She has a wonderful habit of making me proud of her, yes, but she was in unfamiliar, hostile territory.
I couldn’t help but worry.
She stood up, walked confidently to her big brother, placed her hand on his left shoulder, and showed courage that is undeniable. Her loyalty to her brother was best expressed by what she said to me just before, “He’d do the same for me”.
I just respect Kari so much. She makes my heart melt with love and admiration.
I needn’t have worried because, I’m telling you, as she spoke it was a something to behold. From start to finish! I wondered how Austin Vantrease could ever live with himself. What lie must he tell himself when he looks in the mirror? How could he not be intensely embarrassed and ashamed to show his face in public? How could his parents (Bob & Gale Vantrease, of Newark, Delaware) and his siblings not be humiliated by him either? He surely must understand how others will think of him, right?
He might hope to outrun, distort, or hide from his past.
He is a felon… and a violent one, at that. One that wounded another so tragically that human redemption is not possible in this world. He crossed a line where there’s no coming back over. The best he could have hoped for in his lifetime was to just break-even, but he opted otherwise these past 4-⅔ years. He can never balance the scales. They will never be in his favor; not on this planet, anyhow. Precious time was squandered. Wasted! Time continues to run out on him. It always runs out and there’s no getting it back. Did his parents tell him that bit of advice as the seconds ticked away?
How does anyone who’s inflicted such injury… such evil… such harm… possibly justify their life?
Yep, Kari made this all crystal clear… but was he listening?
No matter that she stole the show, I had plenty that I wanted to say. I relished that Austin Vantrease and his family were a captive audience. It might very well be my last chance with that crew, I surmised.
As for Austin’s family, well, I listened to his mother’s (Gale Vantrease) statement. To me, she threw her own pity-party. Still, true to form, she missed the point entirely… that it was being held for her violent, felon son. She tried to mask her true intent. It seems she really doesn’t like me, the popularity of this website, and those who follow Ryan. I actually wrote about the same damned thing two years ago when she spoke at that parole hearing.
What can I say, some people never learn, even when their flat-out told how! Those that lack both hindsight and foresight, I suppose.
Allow me to give you two examples (and I’m paraphrasing her, as I interpreted her). I listened to that all-to-familiar passive-aggressive spiel. Essentially the same as I heard so many times before:
- Gale Vantrease spoke of how Austin — and her family — have been much maligned, primarily online. She claimed they chose not to go that route and focus on the positives. Really? Positives? Could someone please tell me what she could possible be meaning, at least when it comes to Ryan and my family? Also, I am convinced that she outright lied. If she didn’t lie then …what? Did she completely forget about their sad excuse for a website (now likely shutdown… in a future post I’ll tell you why!)? You know, the one with false claims that Ryan was “drunk”. The same website were, despite medical forensics [source: Ruby Memorial Hospital] to the contrary, they conveyed that Ryan used marijuana that night. Sure, she might feel “maligned”, but I’m merely forming — and sharing — my opinions from the factual evidence, observed behavior, and personal experiences. If they don’t enjoy this characterization than I suggest they changed their approach.
- She whined about her family members’ being called “monsters”, then played the martyr by saying if it helps Ryan then they are fine with it. To this, I say, we neither are seeking nor needing her approval. The Bill of Rights protects my freedom of expression, but they should have already known that since a federal judge already ruled in my favor when they filed to shut down this website. The key thing is I mustn’t ever knowingly and willingly lie about them… or anything, for that matter. That’s libel, and it’s illegal. Now, I don’t remember ever calling anyone a monster myself, but I sure-as-hell might have done so. After what Austin Vantrease did to my son, make no mistake about it: I see — and believe — he is a pure-bred monster. As for Austin’s parents, they have given me every reason to think of them as ineffective, destructive, enabling, and excusing parents. Simply put, I think they are bad parents. Their offspring is certainly compelling proof, Austin Vantrease not withstanding.
Geez… and there are actually a few people who wonder why so many deeply distrust and harbor anger toward them! I certainly do.
[Article resumes below interview video]
In Case You Missed It… My interview in prison lot after parole hearing.
[Continuation of Article]
Anyhow, back to the today’s original purpose. So sorry about getting sidetracked with my soapbox rantings.
I gave my Victim Impact Statement, which was largely taken from articles I’ve written over time on this website. To quickly summarize it for you, I:
- …called-out Austin Vantrease for his lack of remorse and accountability (except when it benefits him, like the Parole Hearing).
- …criticized Austin Vantrease’s support system (i.e., family and friends) as aggressive and not viable… even risky.
- …emphasized the outcry from 161,000-plus citizens that they aren’t ready for such a violent felon reintroduced in society.
- …spoke of the relentless impact on my family.
- …recited a passage from my wife, Sue, written in April 2012, called In Search of Answers.
- …briefly detailed the damage to me mentally and physically, and
- …told of Ryan: As he was… his potential… and as he is now… and what might become of him.
After wrapping-up my statement I handed the Board a stack documents for their consideration during deliberations.
Included were: 1) a multi-page printout from the Vantrease website and social media, 2) a formal letter to the entire Vantrease-contingent putting all on notice for liable, 3) a report of the Anti-Parole petition, and 4) selected photographs of Ryan. As for the latter, I actually had to keep myself from giving some pictures that I thought might be too difficult understand (or see).
I want to share these photographs — the same that I gave to the Parole Board — with you. Again, some might be upsetting. There are seven slides in all. You can click-through them, or just let them advance automatically.
Orla Dalton says
My heart breaks for you, your wife and daughter but especially Ryan, who has had his whole future (as it should have been lived) taken from him so viciously and all by a man whose future is to be free to do all that Ryan has been denied. . . . . . The justice system? Where is the justice?
My word I have never seen strength like it in my life. To comprehend how someone can fight on so hard after the horrific attack he went through. I will not mention the said persons name due to not wanting to give the attacker anymore fame and my sole attention on Ryan. You are a fantastic family and Ryan is a hero in my eyes. He continually battles on when most (including me) would have given up! You are in my heart and prayers!
Ann H Tearle via Facebook says
Melissa Pickens Vincent via Facebook says
You are an amazing father! My thought are with your family!
Melanie White Moccaldi via Facebook says
He can’t hide from karma!
Jennifer Garza Bibb via Facebook says
Bless your family and continue to fight to keep that monster in prison!
Paul Rapsawich via Facebook says
Continued prayers and thoughts of strength. Stay strong!
Jennifer Woodyard via Facebook says
Always sending prayers your way.. No one deserves to be going through the things you have! Stay strong ken!
Candy Allen Bauer via Facebook says
My heart hurts so much for you all.
Suzanne DelGaudio via Facebook says
God bless you all!
Leslie Ryan Stasny via Facebook says
You know my complete thoughts on this without me typing one word!!!! Grrr
I have no idea how he wasn’t charged with Attempted Murder?! My heart breaks into a million pieces for your family. I have and will continue to pray for you all <3
I think some people are able to put themselves into a fog of denial, in which they eventually come to believe the lies they’ve been telling themselves and others. But there comes that time in every person’s life when there is a moment of reckoning — and the veil of denial is lifted and the truth can no longer be twisted or hidden. The truth then becomes like a scalding iron of pain from which there is no escape except to finally face it, do what is right, and eventually find genuine peace. Otherwise one is left to face the frightful torment of having the truth rain hellfire upon them ………….. not a good place to be at all …………………..only two things transcend this world — one is truth, the other is love.
Lisa Svendsen says
Still here. Still Praying. NGA. Love you, Ken and Divineys!
Rhonda Morin says
Not that the putz is out of prison I hope he takes the time to actually sit and think about what he has done. I hope he reads this website and sees the damage he has done not only to another human being but also to a family. There are no words to describe what you do on a daily basis.
PK Miller says
It sounds like Austin’s family is as amoral as he. Yeah–her poor much maligned baby…. Like mother, like son. No wonder he’s as screwed up as he is. I had no idea they tried to shut down your website. My God… But, of course, this is the crazy, down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass world we seem to live in. Criminals are victims. Victims are criminals. Why next thing you know, Austin will be up for canonization.
Continue to be better than them, Ken, Kari & family. Take the high road, don’t stoop to their level. We did have our Prayer Table, yesterday. The monsoon season we’ve been experiencing in the Capital District (NY) for the4 last 4-6 weeks got it out of its system w/torrential rains, Tuesday evening. I added Ryan & all of you & explained the latest news. As I’ve said, Deacon Sue uploads all of the petitions & prayer requests to the Worldwide Anglican Communion. That’s a LOT of prayers.
PK & Tim
Ken, that was as eloquent as always. I have to admit that part of me, dare I say it, is glad (as one can be in these circumstances) that “the other shoe has dropped” and hopefully, you won’t have to deal with these foul people any more. You and your family have done all you could and made your point as perfectly as humanly possible, and I get the feeling that this outcome was unavoidable. That other family (if that word even qualifies) will forever have to live with the unavoidable truth that their son kicked an already unconscious man in the head, and none of their frantic justifications or whatever else they do in their lives, forever and ever, will change that ugly truth. And everyone knows it, and that is their lot in life. My own belief is that they all will be further held accountable in the next life, but that is another issue. Anyhow, my best wishes and admiration to you and your family for having the resolve to get through this yet another year, and may things be even the slightest bit easier for all of you now that you won’t have to do it again. God bless.
Kathryn Beggs Howlett via Facebook says
Austin and his family will never know what it feels like to be able to hold their heads high and be admired for their character like the Divineys. We will alwats rally for Ryan and your family!
Jennifer Calvert says
I have followed this story for a couple of years now. I can not believe what your family is going through. And I can not believe the parole board is releasing the attacker. I am not sure if it is any comfort, but know that people all over the world are thinking of you and your family. I pray that Ryan can be comfortable and eventually heal. You all are in my thoughts and prayers.
Laura Rupp says
The love and loyalty that your family has is unbelievable. It is a true inspriration. Continued prayers everyday.
Melissa Fleming says
I know you and your family have heard it all before, but God bless you all. I have lived in Morgantown my whole life and it angers me that trash like Austin come to our home and do such disturbing and tragic things. Keeping you all in my prayers.
Christina Brucker Shupe via Facebook says
I am so sorry for all the pain your family and Ryan has suffered. I don’t understand how they could’ve paroled him. Thinking and praying for your family and Ryan.
I don’t know your family but I’ve been following for quite some time. Neither do I know the Vantrease family, but I can confidently say that Austin Vantrease acted like a monster the night he kicked Ryan in the head and cowardly hid and watched him seize while lying on the ground bleeding. If his family can find a positive in this situation, I would be most curious as to what that could possibly be. How could they look at Ryan and not be moved to fall at his feet and beg for his forgiveness for their son? How could Austin Vantrease himself not be moved to beg for forgiveness for what he and his friends did? Or, was he too cowardly to cast his eyes upon the vibrant young man who he reduced to a mere shadow of the young man with such potential? We will never know, but take comfort in the fact that God knows all and is the final Judge.
I saw Ryan’s story somehow via WCU–my niece is an alumni. I am outraged that Austin was paroled. Where’s the justice? I pray for Ryan and his family for strength, healing and hope.
Prayers and good vibes from my family all over the world. We’ve seen your story in Iowa, Kentucky, Alaska, Tennessee, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Florida, Hawaii and Australia. Much love and comfort to you and your family.
Diana Kavett via Facebook says
So much…so sorry.
Question to Gale Vantrease….as you sat in the same room with Ryan and looked at him in his current condition thanks to your son Austin, just what “positives” came to mind?
“Positively devastating” for everyone involved is what comes to my mind. What “positive” came from your son kicking Ryan in the head? What “positives” is your son bringing home to Delaware from the West Virginia prison he has called home for several years? Really…is that the best you can come up with….we are focusing on “the positives”. With that attitude, no doubt he had a welcome home banner, balloons and party when he returned to Delaware. Did all the neighbors come over to give him a hug, congratulate him on finally getting out….what about his friend Jon May and the others who stood by that night and watched? Were they able to get over to reconnect with Austin?
Also, is this the first time the Vantrease clan has seen Ryan and were his sister and brother there to support him?
Ann H Tearle says
Yeah–positives. Here’s one for ya: His mother must be so very proud of her son, such an upstanding citizen.
OK, so you know, I am being sarcastic. Sorry if I sound petty, but so many tears have spilled, and hope and prayers for Team Diviney been prayed. Maybe Austin doesn’t yet get that his life–as he knew it–is also over, really. Any good person would not want to ever have anything to do with him and his family. Actually, austin should have been charged with murder. Would you want your daughter to marry this guy? mmmmm, have a child with him? I wouldn’t want this guy in the same foxhole with me, have him in your workplace? mmmm, you decide. Ken, sorry for my rant– I just can’t stand this depraved creature. He has no humanity.
Karla Kral via Facebook says
I feel there will never be justice for the damage done against Ryan and the impact it has had on your whole family. The pain and anger must be overwhelming. I am not even sure it is a possibility but I hope now that he has been paroled as a family you know you did all that you could do and can focus on what you as a family can do to heal. My prayers are for comfort in your hearts and healing and peace for Ryan. God bless you all for everything you have had to endure.
Marsha Cook via Facebook says
your family is very strong,i have been following for a while now and say prayers for yall!!!!!
Gwyn Gustafson Giaquinto via Facebook says
Such a horrible thing to hear after reading such a loving and emotional letter from Ryan’s sister. Love and prayer to him and his family.
Racheal Lisa Long via Facebook says
Still saying prayers for hope and strength even though the sadness of it all is so real 🙁
Bea Calabrese says
Tears~ What a handsome kid!! Life is just not fair sometimes!! I pray for your Beautiful family~ You are an AWESOME FAMILY!! The love you all have for Rayn is clearly shown in the pictures you posted!! My heart is aching as I look at them with tears…. BIG HUG to all of you <3 I'm so sorry for the outcome of that trial 🙁 I did sign the petition and passed it along to all my friends! <3 I am truly DEVASTATED that he got parole!!But I can promise you this~ The ultimate judge is our LORD 🙂 So he may be free for now~ But Not for long!!! ETERNITY IS FOREVER!!! Give Rayn a BIG SQUISH for me <3 Praying always~ Love Bea <3
Abbey Whitsell via Facebook says
I’m at work trying to hold myself together, I read Kari’s statement. Love is the most important thing.
Kezz Eench via Facebook says
Austin and his family seriously make me sick. I don’t understand how they could be so protective of a monster. Austin is a coward and will remain one.
TEAM RYAN ALL THE WAY❤️
I think of Ryan daily and your family . Your in my continuing prayers. I don’t know how this monster got out.
Dearest Ryan, this should NEVER have happened to YOU. You were so caring, respectful, happy, agile, fun loving and ready to enjoy life to it’s fullest. You have been denied your future. I cry for you, I realize that it’s not helpful or constructive, but sometimes that’s all we have left are tears. Praying for a miracle
Kelly Tagliaferri via Facebook says
Unbelievable! I’ll call the whole family monsters!
Elizabeth Wolfe via Facebook says
Kara DiMeglio Gee via Facebook says
My God’s angels shine upon you.
Nicole Bonasota via Facebook says
I don’t even remember how I found this story seeing as I live all the way in Florida. All I know is that I see these posts and I’ve read your website and I am filled with anger for your family and sadness in my heart that someone could do this to another person. I so wish I had the money to donate to his cause. Ryan would be some one I would associate myself with and I pray for your family as I continue to read and see his story. <3
Its hard to look at these images. A kid so young and full of life and potential. It was all stolen from him. I can’t imagine the level of stress this puts on you and your family. I admire the efforts of you to make this as comfortable as possible for Ryan. I have followed this story all along. I was attending WVU at the time of this tragic event and am a Morgantown resident. I want you to know that a lot of Morgantown people still follow Ryan’s recovery on a regular basis and, I think I speak for all of us when i say that we are pulling for Ryan and your family! Forever in my prayers.
KarynMike Curran via Facebook says
Praying for your family daily. God Bless all of you
Without a doubt, Kari is the Sweetheart of Team Diviney! We admire and love her, and we are proud of her for all she does for Ryan. Feel the love, Kari! <3
Ha! What lies must Vantrease tell those with whom he comes in contact? !! It seems that lies and deceit can hold this family together–for a time anyway.
RE: PHOTOGRAPHY: some are quite chilling, heartbreaking, and shocking. Too terrible to relive! I love the memorable ones of the good times.
Thank you, Ken for sharing the good and the bad. We are with you in thought and prayer ALWAYS!
Erin Kozy via Facebook says
God Bless your family.
I’ve been following Ryan’s story and your family since starting WVU three years ago and never thought I’d see Austin paroled. With all of our signatures, your and Kari’s testimony, and physical evidence, they still let him out. This is such an injustice to Ryan, your family, and society. I have no words of comfort to offer you. I just want you to know that I am outraged and disappointed (understatement) by our justice system. I will continue to follow, donate, and do anything else possible to help Ryan and your family.
Robyn Mann-Goehring via Facebook says
I read your post in tears and I see your photos in tears. I believe in Karma and I know one day it will happen for that monster. I pray for you and your family to give you the strength to face each and every day.
Paul Rapsawich via Facebook says
Terry Hooker says
I pray for Ryan and your family every day. I just can’t imagine what you are going thru. It breaks my heart to read and see this tragic, horror story about your wonderful, full of potential, beloved son. Society lost a law abiding, good person and we are left with the trash that destroyed him. It’s just hard to find words, but please know Ryan is in my heart, prayers and mind.