National Guardsman Arrested at Fort Liberty for Allegedly Trying to Arrange a Revenge Murder over Mother’s Death

A Raleigh man was arrested Saturday morning for trying to hire someone to kill a man involved in a fatal highway crash that killed his mother almost eight years ago.

Rhett Michael Barlow, 22, was arrested at Fort Liberty by the Wake Forest Police Department and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. Barlow is accused of soliciting to murder Donald Caulder Jr. of Laurinburg.

In March 2016, Caulder was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and failure to reduce speed when he rear-ended Barlow’s mother, Michelle Simone Barlow, 42, with his Freightliner dump truck. The crash occurred south of the Burlington Mills Road intersection on Capital Boulevard.

Michelle Barlow was driving a Toyota Sienna minivan at the time of the crash. The dump truck Caulder was driving was loaded with loose logs and towing a trailer carrying a 9,800-pound Bobcat loader. A Highway Patrol investigation found that the brakes on the trailer were not functioning because they hadn’t been connected to the truck.

The force of the impact pushed Michelle Barlow’s minivan into the back of a tractor-trailer truck driven by Marvin Douglas Erb, then 49, of Danville, Virginia.

Barlow’s minivan was crushed and the dump truck came to rest partly on top of it, The News & Observer reported at the time.

Caulder, then 29, was arrested in Scotland County by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and was convicted in 2017. He received 12 months probation and a suspended sentence.

A spokesperson for Wake Forest said Michelle Barlow’s son was arrested on the military base because he is in the National Guard and was training there this weekend. The solicitation occurred in Wake Forest.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division took Barlow into custody and transferred him to Wake Forest police.

In North Carolina, solicitation to commit murder involves a person soliciting someone else to commit the crime. The charge could result in life in prison if a person is found guilty.

Rhett Barlow was transported to the Wake County Detention Center and charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder. He is being held on a $1 million bond.

A beloved Wake Forest teacher

Safety inspection records released after the accident determined that the dump truck Caulder was driving had multiple violations, including brake failure.

Barlow’s minivan was stopped at a light on Capital Boulevard when the dump truck rear-ended her.

An inspection found that, in addition to the brakes not being wired to the truck, the logs on the truck were not secured. Other violations included the chain securing the Bobcat was not as strong as the law requires, and a battery-powered emergency breakaway system did not work due to a missing battery.

The owner of the truck was fined $930 for the violations.

Michelle Barlow was an English teacher at Wake Forest High School at the time of her death.

According to reports by The News & Observer, Barlow was well-liked by her students. A fundraiser organized by her family raised thousands of dollars to cover funeral expenses.

She began working in the Wake County Public School System in 2015 as an English teacher at Panther Creek High School in Cary. She moved to Wake Forest High a year later. Her son is 2019 a graduate of the school.

At the time of the crash, Barlow had left the school’s campus for a work meeting.

A year after her death, the Barlow family received more than $350,000 from the Wake County school system and the state Department of Public Instruction.

The state determined that Barlow’s death was work-related and ordered the school system to pay her family $355,325 in lost future wages.

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