'Never Been More Proud To Be An Oklahoman': Man Returns Home After Sentencing In Turks And Caicos

After two and a half months of waiting, an Oklahoma man is back home from Turks and Caicos and reunited with his children.

Friday, June 21st 2024, 10:37 pm

By: Bella Roddy


After two and a half months of waiting, an Oklahoma man is back home from Turks and Caicos and reunited with his children.

A heartfelt reunion took place Friday night as Ryan Watson arrived at the Will Rogers World Airport and embraced his two children.

News 9’s Matt McCabe spoke with Ryan on what this moment meant to him, “This is such an answer of prayer. I’m glad to be back home. I've prayed about this for 70 days now. To see God work in this way is, it's pretty incredible. You know, I've never been more proud to be an Oklahoman than I am right now. The way that our elected officials came to bat for us [...] they never gave up. And I'm so incredibly blessed,” Ryan said. 

When asked what it felt like to hear his sentencing Ryan responded, “It was a huge, it was a huge weight that was lifted.”

Ryan shared that in his return, all he wanted was to restore his family and spend time with his children.

News 9 spoke with Ryan’s mother and stepfather, Susan and Terry Fendley. Susan had spent the same two months standing beside Ryan in Turks and Caicos awaiting his sentencing.

When asked about his return, Susan said, “It's just been a blessing that the tides could turn enough to where we got our son home and he's back with his children. I just don't know how to thank everyone who's prayed for us, everyone who's supported us, and him and his wife. I mean, they've worked so hard and they've been faithful.”

What Happened?

Ryan Watson was arrested and charged with carrying ammunition in his bag. Friday morning, a judge handed down a sentence of 13 weeks suspended for nine months and a $2,000 fine.

“We're more than excited,” said Susan Fendley, Ryan Watson’s mother.

Following that court ruling, Fendley said the family rushed to the treasury’s office to pay the fine to release her son’s passport. They're flying home to be reunited with his children.

“He really wants to get home to those kids,” said Terry Fendley, Ryan Watson’s stepfather. “I mean, he keeps talking about that the kids, want to be back home.”

Ryan was arrested following a vacation with friends on the island in April 2024. On his way home, airport security found four rounds of hunting ammunition in his bag, a charge that carried a mandatory minimum 12-year sentence.

U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Rep. Josh Breechen (R-Okla.), both of whom are lawmakers representing Oklahoma in Washington D.C., visited the island in May to discuss the arrests, and while unable to negotiate the release of the detained Americans, two have returned home after being given fines and shortened sentences.

Turks and Caicos Gov. Daniel-Selvaratnam defended the country's laws and said no American has received the full sentence of 12 years in prison. Last week, the island's government amended its gun control law to allow for more lenient sentencing in these types of cases.

“It’s been tense,” said Susan. “The judge still had to go over the sentencing by reading the past law and the mandatory 12 years that we’ve been hearing for the past two and a half three months.”

However, in the end, the judge showed leniency.

“It's just amazing right now to be here in the airport getting ready to come home and finally reunite my son with his family,” Susan said.

The family hopes to arrive at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City Friday night.

In a statement, Governor Kevin Stitt said:

“For two months, the Watson family has faced great uncertainty. But Ryan and his family kept the faith. Today, prayers have been answered and Ryan will come home to Oklahoma. I’m grateful to our congressional delegation, especially Sen. Mullin, Sen. Lankford, and Rep. Breechen, for their advocacy. We stand up our fellow Oklahomans. I wish Ryan, Valerie, and their children the very best as they reconnect and heal from their time apart. May God bless their family.”

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