Despite his attorney's efforts to downgrade the armed robbery charge carrying a potential life sentence, Raylon Vandie Wright will go to trial on that charge in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Wright is accused of trying to rob a nun Feb. 28 as she was trying to lock the doors following a church activity reception. She is 74 years old.
Sister Jacquline A. Wetherholt testified Wednesday about turning around from a large door to find a gun pointed at her head, held about 2 to 3 inches away, possibly closer. She also described how the robber demanded money from her and patted her pants pockets down after she said she didn't have any.
"I was frightened out of my head," Wetherholt said. "I was frightened for myself and the others still in the social hall."
She also described how she identified herself as a nun and began praying out loud while he was escorting her downstairs. He first forced her into a men's bathroom and when she peered out to see if he was still in the hallway, the gun was still being pointed in her direction, Wetherholt testified.
The robber then forced her back up the stairs and into another bathroom, where she remained for about five to six minutes before hearing the last few people from the social hall passing by. She testified that she stuck her head out, saw them and not the robber, told them to slam the door shut and lock it on their way out, and then ran through the church to an office where she called 911.
During the brief hearing, Wetherholt . She also testified about mixing up the numbers used to identify men used in a lineup. She provided police with the wrong number and realized it immediately, correcting herself to police, she testified while being questioned by the defense attorney, Stephen Remski.
Remski also sought to have the armed robbery charge downgraded to an attempted robbery count since nothing was stolen during the crime. He also questioned the nun heavily about her description of the gun, which she noted was basic because she doesn't know much about guns.
The gun used during the robbery was a toy, however for legal purposes the crime is still considered an armed robbery because the victim's fear isn't any less. Additionally, Wetherholt testified that she believed it was a real weapon during the crime.
Prosecutor Scott Ehlfeldt argued against the downgrading of the charge and said Wetherholt's testimony was sufficient to show she believed she was being robbed with a real weapon.
Judge Carl F. Jarboe denied the request to downgrade the charge, explaining that armed robbery is not defined by whether or not anything was taken from the victim.
Jarboe also set Wright up for a pretrial services investigation to determine whether he is eligible to be freed while awaiting trial. Jarboe had set a $50,000 bond during his first appearance in court earlier this month.
Afterward, Wright's mother Dinah Wright declined comment. She previously told Patch her son is a good person who made a bad choice. She said he did it out of hunger because there was no food at their home.
A tip called into police based on a Crime Stoppers poster on a utility pole near Three Mile and East Warren roads. The tipster also informed police that Wright had been talking about the robbery, according to police.
Park Public Safety Director David Hiller said after the hearing he hopes Wright is able to get help and he doesn't believe he should receive a life sentence. Wright does not have any criminal history and is young, Hiller said. He should serve time for the crime, Hiller said, but he thinks if he receives help now he won't become a lifelong repeat offender.
Wright will make his next appearance in Wayne Circuit Court March 30.