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December 23, 1999
Duo Charged With Attempted Murder
A P Kamath
When Todd Alan Farmer, 23, and his friend Anthony Wayne Raynor, 21, appeared in a North Carolina county court this week, the local community hoped their arrest would answer the questions many people have been asking for months: What pushes people to commit crimes of random violence?
The two were nabbed on Monday following an extensive investigation and were charged with attempted second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon. The charge arose from a rock-throwing incident that left 19-year-old Michael Vytlingam brain-damaged and partially paralyzed -- and his family devastated.
The teen and his father were returning home to Toronto from a one-week fishing trip in Florida when a 30-pound rock was dropped from an overpass on Interstate 95 in Fayetteville.
The story made headlines across the state and Toronto for several days.
"I was sitting next to him, chatting to keep him company. Suddenly... we heard this huge bang," said Dennis Vytlingam, who wasn't hurt and managed to grab the steering wheel and stop the vehicle.
Earlier this year, Cumberland County investigators distributed flyers in local schools to inform students there of a $ 14,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrator(s). Crime Stoppers and local businesses offered a $ 2,500 reward.
"To me, this is just as premeditated as me getting a gun and shooting you,'' said Sheriff Moose Butler. "They had to mean harm when they took a boulder up there."
As Michael continues undergoing extensive treatment in a Toronto rehab center, his father wonders what made Farmer and Raynor go for a seemingly mindless attack. Dennis Vytlingam says he is even more "hurt" and "angry" that the alleged attackers were not teenagers.
He has visited the scene of the crime. There is hardly a pebble around, he says. So what made these two carry a rock, he wonders.
According to the police in Fayetteville, one of the alleged attackers has a criminal record. Raynor was sentenced to 18 months probation last year for breaking into a grocery store and stealing from the cash register, but he has never been arrested before for violent behaviour.
Michael, who lost one eye and blinded in the other, is partially paralyzed. The family brought him home for Christmas but he is due to be back at the rehab center within a few days. The Vytlingams are separated and Michael lived with his mother and sister.
His mother Chandra says the family felt a "a sense of relief" with the arrest of the two men, but the arrests and possible convictions do not mean anything to the family. Michael's life is not going to change for much, she feels. And the family will not be able to shake off the nightmarish experience.
But one thing the Vytlingam family feels grateful for -- the support not only from the Indian families but also from hundreds of Canadian families who did not know the Vytlingams. They wrote them letters, sent Michael get-well cards, and asked if the family needed anything.
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