Local News

Arrests Made in I-95 Overpass Attack; Victim Takes Slow Steps Toward Recovery

Posted December 19, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— Two men appeared in court Tuesday morning in connection with a crime that outraged the Fayetteville community.

The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office says Todd Allen Farmer, 24, of Fayetteville and Anthony Wayne Raynor, 21, of Hope Mills were responsible for throwing a rock over an overpass last March 15.

Michael Vytlingam was blinded when the 27-pound rock crashed through his SUV while he was driving north along I-95 in Cumberland County.

Vytlingam was driving home to Canada from a Florida fishing trip with his father.

The 18-year-old was struck in the head and nearly killed. He suffered critical head injuries, lost his left eye and has suffered extensive nerve damage to his right eye.

The suspects are being charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy.

They are being held in the Cumberland County jail, and their bond is set at $750,000 a piece. Police say the two men tossed the rock as part of a prank.

Authorities say someone came forward with information leading them to the suspects in the 9-month-old case.

"There was some information that came in, I'll leave it at that. The reward was not a factor in this case," says Mike Casey of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Farmer and Raynor live in rural Cumberland County near the Robeson County line. Their homes sit just a few miles from the overpass where the rock was thrown.

Sheriff's authorities say they were beginning to lose hope that the case would ever be solved.

"This case has been investigated intensively, as I think all of you know, since March 15 of this year. We have put countless man hours into this case, and we're just happy today that we can say we have two people charged in this incident," said Sheriff Moose Butler.

The Vytlingam family says they are excited by the news of the arrests and hopes this brings them some closure.

Vytlingam barely survived the brutal attack, and the 27-pound rock changed his life forever. The once-healthy teenager suffered partial blindness and brain damage.

He has been through more than 20 hours of surgery since last March.

Now, Vytlingam's time is taken up with physical therapy. His favorite sport, baseball, will have to wait.

"[It's] very emotional for me, but it's also great seeing him take a few steps. He used to run all the time," said Chandra Vytlingam, Michael's mother.

Four days a week, he works at regaining simple motions he used to take for granted.

"Michael, at the moment, needs to learn how to get in and out of the wheelchair. Then, we're moving on from there into the transition from sit to stand," said physiotherapist Rose Bell.

In the nine months since the accident, Vytlingam has had eight major surgeries, many of them to reconstruct his face.

He lost one eye, has partial paralysis on his left side and has some brain damage, but he has not given up, and his mother sees the progress.

"To see him open his fingers and moving his arm up to his face is very encouraging for us," said his mother.