Local News

Apex man found guilty in teen's 2008 slaying

Posted September 24, 2010 10:37 a.m. EDT
Updated September 27, 2010 1:06 p.m. EDT

— An Apex man will spend the rest of his life in prison after a Wake County jury found him guilty Friday of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of a teenage acquaintance.

The jury deliberated for nearly five hours before reaching its verdict. (Watch the verdict being announced.)

Ryan Hare, 19, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted first-degree murder – both in connection with a failed attempt to kill Matthew Silliman on Nov. 25, 2008 – and conspiracy to commit murder in his Nov. 30, 2008, death.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway sentenced Hare to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction and 12 to 15 years for each of the other convictions.

"I would like to apologize to the Silliman family for my part in all this," Hare said before he was sentenced. "I don't believe the entire truth is known, but most of it has been."(Watch the sentencing phase of the trial.)

Hare was arrested Dec. 3, 2008, after Wake County sheriff's deputies found Silliman's body in an abandoned trailer in New Hill.

The 18-year-old senior at Apex High School had been bound and gagged and had a plastic bag over his head secured with a zip tie. An autopsy found that he died from asphyxiation but also had high levels of anti-depressants, pain medication and alcohol in his body.

"At a time like this, it is hard to know what to say," Silliman's father, Ben Silliman, told Hare in court. "But I can tell you that, as God gives us the power, we forgive you for what you did to Matt."

Family and friends briefly shared memories of Matthew Silliman, including his 15-year-old sister, who described her brother as her playmate, mentor and role model.

"Right after his death, I felt fear, loneliness and had nightmares. I still have difficulty sleeping at times, and sometimes, sadness settles on me even when I'm not thinking about Matt," Mary Silliman said. "At times, my brain is confused, and all I know how to do is cry.

"Almost two years later, I miss him when we walk the dog, cook dinner, play games on Saturday night or I play in the band we both once marched with," she continued. "I miss the way Matt treated me like his precious sister."

Hare's defense attorney, Robert Padovano, argued during the trial that Silliman's death was a suicide and that his client's role was assisting in it. (Watch Padovano's closing argument.)

But prosecutors argued that Hare was a "master manipulator" who was jealous of Silliman and preyed on others' weaknesses to help him in an elaborate scheme to kill Silliman that included a fictional hit man and a grave.

Prosecutors likened the case to a TV movie, and over eight days of testimony, several witnesses – including two others charged in the case – detailed Hare's alleged "sinister plot" to kill Silliman.

"Ryan did it because Matt kissed his girlfriend," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller said Thursday. "That's it. (Matt) made him mad, and he killed him – and Matt thought he was his friend." (Watch the state's closing argument.)

In his closing arguments, Padovano focused on Hare's three co-defendants, who all confessed, and their lack of credibility. Hare was singled out as the leader, he said because he was the only one who didn't confess his role.

"If there were confessions from all four of them, they all would have been facing first-degree murder charges," Padovano said after the trial. "Because he was the one who didn't confess his role, the state had to make some offers. Computers can't testify. They need live testimony."

In exchange for her testimony in Hare's trial, Hare's girlfriend at the time of the crime, Allegra Rose Dahlquist, 19, pleaded guilty last month to charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in the case. She has yet to be sentenced.

Aadil Shahid Khan, 19, also accepted a plea deal last month, but prosecutors filed a motion last week to withdraw the deal, saying he has been uncooperative. That matter will be addressed in court Monday afternoon.

And Drew Logan Shaw, 18, rejected a plea deal and is in jail awaiting trial.

"(Matt) saw all his peers as special," Mary Silliman said. "That is what's so disturbing about the way these kids treated him and took away his life. But I do forgive Ryan.

"I looked forward to seeing my brother Matt grow up, graduate, go to college, get his first job, get married and have his own family," she continued. "These things are lost to me now. I will miss his smile. I will live with this tragedy and think about my brother's death for the rest of my life, but I will be thankful for the years I had with him."

Alan O'Neal, who was Matthew Silliman's Eagle Scout master and friend, was also in court Friday when the jury returned the verdict and Hare apologized to the Sillimans.

"I think, in his own way, he was sincere. I would have much preferred to have him turn around and face the Sillimans and very directly say he apologized," O'Neal said.

O'Neal said the lesson in this case is to for parents and adults to pay closer attention to what young people might be going through.

"They need the support of the community. They need support of the schools," he said.