Okla. Man May Face 12-Year Sentence in Turks and Caicos for Traveling with Ammunition: 'Bonehead Mistake'

Tourists Ryan and Valerie Watson were both detained on the island earlier this month after ammunition was found in their carry-on bag at the airport

<p>NBC10 Boston/YouTube</p> Ryan (left) and Valeria Watson

NBC10 Boston/YouTube

Ryan (left) and Valeria Watson

An Oklahoma couple’s future is in jeopardy as one of them faces 12 years in prison for violating the guns and ammunition law in Turks and Caicos.

Ryan and Valerie Watson were detained for two weeks on the island after visiting on April 7 for a 40th birthday trip after hunting ammunition was found in Ryan’s carry-on bag at the airport ahead of their flight home.

The couple was charged at the time with possession of ammunition, facing a minimum prison sentence of 12 years each, under the strict law prohibiting the possession of guns or ammunition passed in 2022 in Turks and Caicos.

On Monday, April 22, Valerie’s charges were dropped and she was permitted to return to their two children in Oklahoma, NBC 10 Boston reported. However, her husband Ryan is still being kept behind bars on the island as he continues to face charges. He is scheduled for a bail hearing on Wednesday, April 24.

Related: Cyndi Lauper's Son Arrested and Charged with Gun Possession in N.Y.C.

Valerie described the ordeal as starting out being “a dream vacation to a nightmare."

Speaking from Turks and Caicos before her charges were dropped, she told CBS News, "We were trying to pack board shorts and flip-flops. Packing ammunition was not at all our intent."

Ryan admitted it was a “bonehead mistake,” telling NBC 10, "They were hunting ammunition rounds that I use for whitetail deer … I had no idea that those were in there."

After their passports were taken and they realized they could be facing prison time, Valerie said she became “terrified” at the thought of being apart from their children.

Related: American Tourist, 22, 'Severely Injured' in Shark Attack While Snorkeling in Turks and Caicos

"... I was like, we can't both be in prison for 12 years. We have kids at home,” she told NBC 10. “And this is such an innocent mistake … my immediate thought was our kids and them being, you know, parentless for, for that long.”

Ryan and Valerie’s detainment has caused financial struggles for the pair as it has interrupted their return to their jobs. “This is something that we may never recover from,” Ryan added to the outlet.

Bryan Hagerich from Pennsylvania endured a similar fate to the Watsons as he spent eight nights in prison in Turks and Caicos after being found with ammunition in his bag at the airport in February.

"It's incredibly scary,” Hagerich, who is awaiting a court hearing on May 3, told NBC 10. "You just don't know what the next day may bring … what path this may take. You know, you're in a completely different culture, a different country by yourself … I'm just very anxious, eager to get home to my family. This has been too long. It's just had so much irreparable harm to my family.”

Michael Grim from Indiana also received an almost six-month prison sentence last year after pleading guilty to possessing ammunition in the British Overseas Territory.

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A spokesperson for the State Department spokesperson, per CBS News, following these incidents, "We are aware of the arrest of U.S. citizens in Turks and Caicos. When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. In a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country's laws, even if they differ from those in the United States."

PEOPLE reached out to the State Department for further comment, but they did not immediately respond.

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