Raleigh, N.C. — The fate of a man accused of conspiring to kill and then murdering an Apex teenager nearly two years ago now lies in the hands of a Wake County jury.
Both the state and the defense presented closing arguments Thursday morning in the murder trial of Ryan Patrick Hare, 19, who is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 30, 2008, death of Matthew Josiah Silliman.
The 18-year-old senior at Apex High School was found bound and gagged with a plastic bag over his head in an abandoned trailer two days after his death.
An autopsy found that he died from asphyxiation but also had high levels of anti-depressants, pain medication and alcohol in his body.
Hare's defense attorney, Robert Padovano, argued that the death of Silliman, who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, was a suicide.
"I told you that Ryan Hare acknowledged some criminal responsibility, some criminal conduct in the death of Matt Silliman, and I told you that his role was not that of first-degree murder," Padovano told jurors. "It was assisting in suicide."
But Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said that Hare hated Silliman because Silliman had kissed Hare's girlfriend.
"It's absurd to think that Matt ended up like that on his own," Waller said of the way investigators found his body on Dec. 2, 2008. "What killed Matthew Silliman on the night of 11/30 was that bag, was that duct tape, was that zip tie tied tight."
Waller called Hare a "master manipulator" who preyed on others' weaknesses and plotted an elaborate scheme to lure Silliman to an abandoned trailer in New Hill, where Silliman thought he was hiding from a fictitious hit man named Roger.
"I think we know who Roger is," Waller said. "It's one and the same. Ryan is Roger. I'm not talking about some split personality here. Ryan Hare uses Roger when he gets in trouble."
The jury must consider four charges: two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count of murder, which they must decide is either first-degree or second-degree.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Hare would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors have likened the case to a TV movie, and over eight days of testimony, nearly two dozen witnesses, including two other people charged in the case, detailed Hare's alleged "sinister plot" to kill Silliman.
Co-defendants Drew Shaw and Allegra Dahlquist (Hare's girlfriend at the time of the crime) testified that Hare had tried once before to kill Silliman and that, when the attempt failed, Hare convinced Silliman that he was trying to fake his death so that Roger would think he was dead.
The night Silliman died, they testified, Hare failed to knock him unconscious with a hammer and then gave Silliman an ultimatum to either be killed or kill himself.
"He's got his friends coming in with zip ties," Waller told jurors. "He's got a guy who's already hit him in the head with a hammer. What kind of choice is that? He numbed the pain. He did the best he could. He knew what was coming."
In his closing arguments, Padovano focused on Hare's co-defendants, who confessed and their lack of credibility.
"Ryan Hare was singled out as the leader, the mastermind of all this for one reason," Padovano said. "Of the four, he was the one who did not go to police and confess his role."
Jurors had deliberated for about three hours Thursday when Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway called for court to resume, thinking the jury had reached a verdict.
Court officials said the foreman unwittingly signaled to the court that there was a decision when the jury had actually wanted to ask for an afternoon break.