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Mintlaw wife-killer Wayne Fraser appeals Mississippi conviction

Domestic abuser Wayne Fraser fired Natalie Ryan-Fraser's own handgun at her neck while his paralysed spouse was in her wheelchair on December 30 2021.

Wayne Fraser shot guns with his paralysed wife Natalie Ryan-Fraser and later went on to shoot her dead. Images: Facebook
Wayne Fraser shot guns with his paralysed wife Natalie Ryan-Fraser and later went on to shoot her dead. Images: Facebook

A wife-killer from Mintlaw who blasted his wheelchair-bound spouse with her own handgun has lodged an appeal to overturn the Mississippi jury’s verdict.

Wayne Fraser, 47, was jailed for 20 years and fined $10,000 after jurors found him guilty of the culpable negligent manslaughter of 55-year-old Natalie Ryan-Fraser.

Firearms fan Fraser had been photographed shooting deadly weapons during the couple’s visit to San Angelo Gun Club in Texas a month before he turned on Natalie.

She was shot in the neck on December 30 2021 while the paralysed woman sat helplessly in her wheelchair a day after the pair enjoyed a romantic dinner out together.

Now, the former Mintlaw Academy and Banff and Buchan College student, whose trial exposed him as a horrible domestic abuser, is appealing to the state’s Supreme Court.

Mintlaw man Wayne Fraser faces a long wait to try and overturn his conviction for killing Natalie Ryan-Fraser in Mississippi

The Press and Journal have seen court documents confirming that Fraser’s state public defender has filed a notice of appeal to Mississippi’s highest court.

A justice official who works in the southern city of Columbus and is based at Lowndes County Court, where Fraser was prosecuted, told The P&J that he faces a lengthy wait for a result.

“It could take several months or a year before they make a decision on it,” she said, adding: “Pretty much all of them appeal. It’s not uncommon at all.

“By law, they have to have some kind of grounds concerning something that was wrong with the initial court case.

“The verdict could be reversed with the need for a retrial, the case could be completely dismissed, or upheld with no changes.”

Mississippi justice officials say Wayne Fraser’s appeal is at the very early stages of the lengthy process

Jacob Howard, Legal Director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, explained that progressing from notice of appeal to the court’s decision could take up to a year and a half.

“Once the notice of appeal is filed, the trial court clerk will put together the record from the trial – including the transcript, pleadings, exhibits – and send it to the Supreme Court,” he said.

State Public Defender André de Gruy said “everyone convicted of a crime has a right to appeal” before adding that the process “could take months”.

André de Gruy, the State Public Defender for Mississippi. Image: Office of State Public Defender, Mississippi

Mr Howard added: “Once the record is received, the Supreme Court clerk will issue a briefing schedule.

“The appellant (Fraser’s attorney) will file an opening brief, the State (prosecutor) will file a response, and then the appellant is permitted to file a reply.”

The briefing process takes up to 84 days and may even include extensions.

“When the briefing is completed, the court may or may not hear oral argument.  The court will then issue a written decision,” Mr Howard said.

Jacob Howard, Adjunct Professor and Legal Director, MacArthur Justice Center. Image: MacArthur Justice Center/University of Mississippi

But a Mississippi Supreme Court staffer explained that the clock counting down to the deadline for judges to rule on the appeal has not yet started.

“The brief and replies go to the judges and then they have 270 days to rule on this particular case, unless motions in between slow the case,” she explained.

During his trial, Fraser had been facing the possibility of life imprisonment if he was found guilty of the serious homicide offence of first-degree murder, a charge he denied.

But he was unanimously cleared by the 12 jurors who had considered all of the evidence heard during a four-day hearing and deliberated over three hours.

Instead, the jury convicted him of the less serious crime of culpable negligent manslaughter.

It meant that Fraser, who had been working part-time as a foreman for an industrial painting and coating company in Hamilton, Mississippi, may be eligible for parole once he serves half of his 20-year-long jail term.

Wayne Fraser swapped Mintlaw life for work in Mississippi and a marriage with his Texas wife Natalie Ryan-Fraser

The Scots expat from Aberdeenshire swapped the north-east for life in America, where he married Natalie in 2014.

They lived together in Texas, where Natalie was employed as a senior instructor at Angelo State University’s Department of English and Modern Languages.

At the time when she died, Natalie had travelled from the tragic couple’s Texas home to visit Fraser, enjoying a romantic dinner out together the day before the deadly shooting.

While enjoying the meal for two, Natalie checked the two in at a steakhouse and sushi bar on Facebook, posting: “Dinner with my love” but it was to be her last-ever post.

Natalie Ryan-Fraser’s final Facebook post before her death. Image: Facebook

Natalie’s body was discovered at an apartment in Caledonia after Lowndes County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a concern for her welfare.

One of Natalie’s brothers, Kory Ryan, had called 911 after Fraser phoned him and claimed Natalie shot herself.

Law enforcement officers took into evidence a 9mm firearm – the dead woman’s own handgun – and arrested Fraser after arriving at the Cedar Street property, around 8am that morning.

Mr Ryan, the founder and managing partner of a Texan law firm, was the prosecution’s final witness before the District Attorney (DA) closed his case.

One of Natalie’s brothers, Kory Ryan, gave evidence against his brother-in-law. Image: LinkedIn

Following Fraser’s conviction, the DA who led the prosecution against the callous gunman revealed how difficult it was to convict him.

A relieved Scott Colom commended the jury, saying: “The jurors paid attention. I respect their verdict.

“It was a tough case because we didn’t have any eyewitnesses – only his version of events. We had to disprove that enough to get him found guilty of anything.”

Throughout the police investigation and prosecution, Fraser tried to present the chilling ordeal that he inflicted on Natalie as nothing more than just an accident.

Mr Colom added: “I’m happy that the jury was able to see through enough of the inconsistencies of what he said happened and enough of his behaviour to be found guilty of manslaughter.

“What he said happened – he gave different versions – was around them playing with the gun and him accidentally shooting her because of something that she did,” he explained.

Wayne called Natalie his ‘chicken’ and she affectionately called him her ‘monkey’. Image: Facebook

He also revealed that the pair had both been drinking and “they both were probably intoxicated”.

Natalie, who was paralysed in a drink-driving car crash when she was a teenager, was sitting in her wheelchair at the time.

Emails between them show that he had been committing domestic abuse against her and photos that she had showed evidence of domestic abuse – black eyes; bruises on her face,” Mr Colom added.

“He told law enforcement she was killed at 2am,” Mr Colom remarked, adding: “That was very suspicious.

He had waited five hours to contact anyone and tell them what happened instead of calling 911 right away.”

Harrowing evidence was seen by the Mississippi jury that convicted Mintlaw man Wayne Fraser who killed his spouse Natalie Ryan-Fraser

Evidence from the State Medical Examiner’s Office (SMEO) proved crucial in convincing jurors that they couldn’t believe Fraser’s claims.

Testimony from the SMEO representative highlighted the forensic science that helped to cast doubt on Fraser’s defence of Natalie’s horrific ordeal.

“It was a distance gunshot wound, which meant that he had to be at least 2ft away from her when he shot the gun,” Mr Colom explained.

“The entry wound was in the left of the front of her neck and the exit wound was in the back of her neck on the right side, so, he had to be in front of her.”

In an emotive tactic, the DA put Natalie’s wheelchair on display to jurors as they took in testimony about her final moments with Fraser and the fatal injury that she suffered.

Wayne Fraser sees his dead wife’s wheelchair as it’s shown to the jury in his trial. Images: WCBI

The prosecutor added: “We were trying to disprove his version of events about how close he was to her when the shot went off to show that the trajectory of the bullet was inconsistent with her sitting down and him standing up because it was an upward trajectory”.

READ MORE: The former Aberdeenshire resident who swapped his life in the north-east of Scotland for the American dream that turned into a nightmare

‘Madcap’ killer husband was a ‘wild card’ and a ‘strange one’ – former workmates reveal

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