North Carolina Man Hired Hitman to Kill Driver Who Fatally Struck His Mother in Car Crash as Revenge

Rhett Barlow and Michelle Simone Barlow
Rhett Barlow and his late mother, Michelle Simone Barlow. Facebook

A Raleigh man was arrested on Saturday morning after officials say he hired a hitman to kill the man involved in the fatal Wake Forest crash that claimed his mother's life nearly eight years ago.

Rhett Michael Barlow, 22, was arrested by the Wake Forest Police Department and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, according to a news release from Wake Forest town officials.

Barlow Sought to Kill Donald Caulder Jr., the Man Behind the Wheel of the Vehicle That Killed His Mother in 2016

Barlow was arrested after soliciting on November 28, 2023, to commit the first-degree murder of Donald Caulder Jr., the news release and an arrest warrant said. "In March 2016, Caulder was involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash along Capital Boulevard/US 1 in Wake Forest that claimed the life of Barlow's mother," the news release said.

Barlow's mother, Michelle Simone Barlow, 42, of Wake Forest, died in a March 22, 2016, chain-reaction crash on U.S. 1/Capital Boulevard. Michelle was a high school teacher at Wake Forest High School. She lost her life when Caulder, operating a dump truck brimming with logs and towing a Bobcat, rammed into her minivan from the rear. The impact thrust her vehicle into a tractor-trailer, culminating in her untimely death.

Investigations at the time suggested that driver fatigue or distraction may have led Caulder to crash without any attempts to brake or swerve.

Caulder was Convicted on Charges Related to the Crash in 2017

Caulder, now 36, was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and failure to reduce speed. He was convicted in January 2017 on the misdemeanor charge, according to records from the North Carolina Department of Corrections. He was given an intermediate sentence with special probation, which is typically a period of active confinement followed by probation.

Barlow was arrested while he was on National Guard active duty at the base of Fort Liberty, according to a Wake Forest official. Barlow was taken to the Wake County Detention Center and is being held under a $1 million secured bond. Barlow's first court appearance is scheduled for Wake County District Court on Monday at 1:30 p.m.