BREMERTON -- Nine-year-old Ryan Rosales was bright, outgoing and had an engineering mind like his dad.
What he wanted for Christmas was tape.
“I want tape, daddy, all kinds of tape,” James Rosales said Thursday, relating the words of his son, who died Tuesday.
Ryan also asked for rubber bands, pipe cleaners and an array of building materials — his favorites, aside from Legos.
“I can do anything with that stuff,” Ryan told his dad.
“You name it, he could build it,” James said, describing the Green Mountain Elementary student as an inventive, engaging child.
“He had a presence about him,” James said. “He always made friends with whoever he met. He would talk to complete strangers and brighten their day. He was just the best.”
Ryan’s mother, Amber Lynn James, is alleged to have killed Ryan. James Rosales and some of Amber's friends say Amber loved Ryan, and they are struggling to come to terms with how a loving mother could kill her son.
James was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder; that charge was upgraded to first-degree murder with domestic violence and deliberate cruelty to a particularly vulnerable victim. Authorities allege she suffocated Ryan after exhibiting signs of mental distress. After being booked she was housed in a crisis cell inside the jail, she was scheduled to appear Friday in Kitsap County Superior Court. Her arraignment was moved to November 8 due to a change in her lawyers, so no plea has been entered.
Amber’s social media posts feature Ryan prominently. They show his birthday party at a Silverdale bowling alley earlier in this month, along with photos of Ryan climbing on tires and exploring the county fair with his mom.
“Happy birthday to my sweet son Ryan,” Amber wrote on an Oct. 9 Facebook post.
“It’s called mental illness, that’s what led to this,” James said. “It’s invisible, you can’t see it. She loved her son so much. There was no indication she would hurt him, ever.”
James had custody of Ryan for the past five years, but he and Amber were former boyfriend and girlfriend and cooperated in raising Ryan. James would drop off Ryan at school, and Amber would pick him up in the afternoon. James would drive to pick up Ryan at Amber's house and take him home.
Elvina Baxter was friends with both James and Amber, calling them good people who both loved Ryan. Baxter said Amber stopped by her house a couple months ago and they caught up and talked about how Amber had been hiking the railroad tracks near her Kitsap Lake house.
“I think she was struggling really hard to keep it together for so long,” Baxter said. “I can’t fathom.”
In court documents, a Kitsap County Sheriff’s detective wrote that Amber had been showing signs of mental distress in the leadup to Ryan’s death. She had been watching “conspiracy type” videos on YouTube, and the day before Ryan’s death, she made repeated 911 calls seeking help, believing she was being followed.
A sign of Amber’s increasing distress is found on her Facebook page, which typically featured photos of Ryan. Late last month a couple posts appeared that seemed unusual. One was a link to a Fox News story about a “mysterious object” that had entered the solar system, and then a post from Oct. 30, the day before Ryan’s body was found in his bed, that said “Weirdo stuff being followed. Weird.”
Dawn Michelle Wilson, a friend of Amber’s from a 12-step program and who babysat Ryan, described Ryan as well-mannered and Amber as helpful and caring. She sees Amber as a person who struggled with mental illness and fell through the cracks.
“If you knew Amber, there was no sign of that at all,” Wilson said. “She was very sweet, very caring, willing to help the next person coming along.”
Wilson added: “People are just in shock.”
James said that the night before Halloween, Amber was showing signs of paranoia and delusions and begged to stay at the house so she could be close to Ryan.
In the morning, he woke up to the smell of gas and found that the burners on the stove were all turned on. He went to the guest bedroom where Amber was staying and found her pretending to be asleep. He told her she had to go. He then went to give Ryan a hug and a kiss.
“He had already passed,” James said. “She had already killed him.”
James said he still loves Amber, and he would help her again if he could.
“I totally forgive her,” he said.
A vigil for Ryan Rosales is planned for Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Green Mountain Elementary. Please bring battery-operated candles only, and no flowers or stuffed animals.
A GoFundMe account to aid Ryan Rosales' family can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/the-rosales-memorial-fund