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Innocent Mistake or Crime? Man and Wife Held in Turks and Caicos, Facing 12 Years in Prison (video)

Valerie Watson returned home to Oklahoma after a two-week ordeal in Turks and Caicos, but her husband Ryan remains imprisoned. The Watsons were vacationing to celebrate Ryan’s 40th birthday.

Innocent Mistake or Crime? The Shocking Story of Ryan Watson in Turks and Caicos

On April 7th, during security checks for their return flight, airport officials found a Ziploc bag of hunting ammunition in their carry-on. Unbeknownst to them, the bullets were from a previous hunting trip.

Arrest and Initial Charges

Upon discovery of the ammunition, the couple was immediately taken into custody by police. Valerie explained, “This is a complete innocent mistake. I had no idea that they were in there.”

Despite their protests, authorities referenced local laws, informing the Watsons that they faced a possible 12-year prison sentence for possession of ammunition.

Turks and Caicos Law on Ammunition Possession

In 2022, the Turks and Caicos Islands passed an amendment increasing penalties for possession of weapons or ammunition. The law now mandates a minimum 12-year prison sentence.

This strict regulation caught the Watsons off guard, leaving them to face severe legal consequences for what they claim was an innocent oversight.

Impact on the Family

Valerie was released after 11 days when charges against her were dropped. However, Ryan remains detained, his fate uncertain as he awaits further court hearings.

The family is grappling with severe emotional and financial strain, exacerbated by their unexpected extended stay and separation from their children and jobs.

Similar Case: Brian Haigrich

Ryan Watson is not alone in this predicament. Brian Haigrich, a former professional baseball player, experienced a similar situation. After a family vacation in February, Haigrich was detained when hunting ammunition was found in his luggage.

Like Watson, he had no prior knowledge of the bullets being there. Haigrich, who resides in Pennsylvania with his wife and two young children, spent eight days in prison before posting bail. He awaits a court hearing on May 3rd.

U.S. Embassy Travel Alert

The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas had previously issued a travel alert in September, warning Americans of the harsh penalties for ammunition possession in Turks and Caicos. This followed the case of an Indiana tourist who received an eight-month prison sentence for a similar offense.

Financial and Emotional Toll

The ordeal has taken a significant toll on both families. Valerie and Ryan Watson are facing potential financial ruin, fearing the loss of their home. Valerie expressed the gravity of their situation, “This is something that we may never recover from.”

The extended stay and legal battles have disrupted their lives, leading to uncertainty about their future.

Current Status and Next Steps

Ryan Watson remains in custody, waiting for his case to be heard. The upcoming court hearings will determine his fate and potentially lead to sentencing under the stringent local laws.

Meanwhile, the Haigrich family is also bracing for their upcoming court date, hoping for a favorable resolution.


The cases of Ryan Watson and Brian Haigrich highlight the severe consequences of inadvertently carrying ammunition into Turks and Caicos. Tourists must be acutely aware of local laws and regulations to avoid similar situations.

As both families await their court hearings, they face significant emotional and financial challenges, hoping for a swift and just resolution.


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