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Virginia dad facing jail time in Turks and Caicos released on bond, but can't yet come home

Posted at 3:13 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 21:02:55-04

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. — A Louisa County man being held in jail in Turks and Caicos for allegedly bringing along two rounds of ammunition in his luggage was released on bond Friday.

Jeriann Wenrich told me Friday afternoon that she was able to speak to her husband Tyler, an EMT, once he was released, for just the second time since his ordeal began on April 20.

She knows her struggle to get her husband home is far from over. Then she heard from a woman she didn't know.

"Even though my family and friends are here for me, and my neighbors are here for me, they don't know what I'm going through," Jeriann Wenrich said. "And just to have someone just say, 'okay, it's going to end. He's going to come home.' It's just so relieving."

Wenrich is finding comfort from an unexpected place: other families whose loved ones are in the Turks and Caicos judicial system after ammunition was discovered in their belongings.

Tyler Wenrich was detained two weeks ago after getting off a cruise ship with his buddies in the island nation, the fifth such case in recent months.

"It was just a simple mistake that I feel like anybody could have made," Jeriann said. "Just check, before you travel anywhere. I'll definitely do this now, and review all of the laws and regulations that could possibly get you in trouble."

The law in Turks and Caicos is severe: a 12-year minimum sentence for possessing a gun or ammunition, even accidentally.

But that was not at all clear initially when it seemed her husband might get off with a slap on the wrist.

She quickly found out the grave reality.

"It was just a crushing weight of 'Oh, my God, this is really, really serious," said Wenrich. "And I understand that countries have their own laws and regulations. And they're doing that to protect their citizens and people that live there. But at some point, there has to be fairness and justice in that and with the 12 years minimum, for not only people just coming to visit, but for the people who actually live there, that is such a significant time in someone's life, for a mistake."

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Tyler and Jeriann Wenrich

Jeriann said she was not prepared for what she called the rollercoaster of emotions she's experienced in trying to help her husband.

Her spirits rose earlier this week when Tyler was deemed eligible for bond, even though he must remain on the island until trial.

But they sank just as quickly when she realized getting the payment cleared to a bank there could take ten days.

"Yesterday, I just couldn't stop smiling. Because I just was like, oh, my gosh, I can talk to my husband again," Wenrich said. "And I can see his face because I haven't been able to talk to him, but once since the 20th. And now today, I just feel like very let down and crushed, because I'm most likely not going to be able to do that."

That changed Friday with his release, but Jeriann said her father-in-law will remain there for the duration of his son's ordeal.

She's now focused on the next steps, and trying not to think about what potentially lies down the road.

"I don't want my son to grow up without a father," she said. "Obviously, he'd know that his father loves him deeply. And that he, if he could be there, he would be there. But he wouldn't have someone to grow up to look up to until he's well over 12, or 13 years old."

As the dental hygienist tends to their Louisa County home and their 18-month-old son, she said she's learning a lot from the families of the four other men who have been there before.

"Somehow she knew that I needed that," said Wenrich. "Because she listed out every single thing that I was feeling. And she was like, 'you're not alone.' I just made me feel so good that I knew that that someone else was in the same position."

Wenrich flew from Richmond International Airport to Miami to start the cruise.

As far as how his backpack with the two bullets, got through the airport screening, the TSA told us that while they have the video of Wenrich going through security, they cannot confirm whether his backpack got through, because they say the x-ray record has been deleted.

A GoFundMe was established to help the family during this uncertain time.

Tyler and Jeriann Wenrich

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