By Grayson Zoller
Rylee Ritchie, a former student at Delta Middle School who would have been a graduating senior this year, is remembered fondly by students and teachers alike.
She was murdered in late April 2019 in her Farmington neighborhood home. Investigators determined she and her mother, Denise Miles, were both murdered by Casey Ritchie, Rylee’s father, before he then took his own life.
Kiara Patty, who was Rylee’s best friend, describes her as “sweet and very, very intelligent. Like very, very intelligent.”
Rylee was creative, known for her artistic and writing abilities.
“That girl would sit on the computer for hours and hours and just write stories constantly,” says Patty, who is now a senior at Muncie Central High School. She transferred from Delta in the middle of her freshman year.
Ms. Meghan Frey, Rylee’s art teacher for all of middle school, commented that she was “uniquely herself…she had a quirky style.” This style is most prominent in the large amounts of doodles that she would make outside of art classes.
Some of the other art projects that Frey highlighted from Rylee’s portfolio were her self portrait, inspired by impressionist artist Pablo Picasso, and a small clay sculpture that was finished by her friends after she passed away.
Senior Eleni Bow recalls Rylee’s interests in cosplay and mythology, and her ability to create and write original characters as well as her love of reading.
“She always had her nose in a book whenever she could,” Bow said.
She remembers playing the online video game Roblox, making original characters, and writing together with Rylee.
Bow considered Rylee to be like a sister to her and would often help Rylee with makeup, hair care, and general “girl stuff.” She helped Rylee find a dress for her eighth-grade formal, although Rylee would never get to attend it.
Rylee had a large impact on the lives of the people who knew her.
“She kind of, in a way, made me able to come out of my shell when it came to creativity and stuff and to not be, I guess, ashamed or shy of what I was creating,” Bow says.
Both Bow and Patty said that Rylee was a source of emotional support that they could confide in. Bow says that Rylee was one of the first people she would go to with difficult things going on in her life. Patty said that she would tell Rylee everything that was going on in her life.
Frey has memories of painting and building the sets for the school play during Rylee’s eighth grade year, where Rylee would play music for the group, including music from the band ABBA.
Rylee’s death had a major impact with many people. Frey remembers it as being challenging for everyone, including the art class that Rylee was in.
“Even if they weren’t friends with Rylee, that was a pretty profound moment for everyone to cope with,” Frey says.
Bow has memories of visiting the crime scene. She found a nickel on the ground outside Rylee’s house. She later got a hole drilled into the nickel and has made it into a necklace, which she has never taken off unless required to by airport security.
Several students came together and made “Remember Rylee” stickers that were handed out around the school. Notes, drawings and fruit snacks were placed outside her locker.
After Rylee’s death, Frey created an award that is given out at the end of every school year at the middle school in Rylee’s memory. The award is given to a person who doesn’t realize how talented they are, and is intended to help them realize what they can contribute to the world.
Reflecting on the death of Rylee, Frey had this to say:
“I try to remember with all of my students that we don’t know what home life is like, and sometimes we’re a bright spot for them…It’s a good reminder that we’re here for the students, and to remember that sometimes the humanity should come before academics.”