The wife of Fayetteville City Councilman Larry Wright is being sued in the death of a Fayetteville letter carrier.

Letter carrier Ricky Armwood of Sampson County was killed Oct. 31 in a car crash with Deborah Jean Wright. She rear-ended his U.S. Postal Service truck while he was delivering mail on Morganton Road in Fayetteville.

Armwood’s widow, Janice Marie Armwood, filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Ricky Armwood’s estate on Tuesday in Robeson County Superior Court. It names Wright and her church, Heal the Land Outreach Ministries, as the defendants. The Wrights founded the church.

Councilman Wright is not being sued.

Separate from the lawsuit, Deborah Wright faces a charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in Ricky Armwood’s death. The criminal charge was scheduled to be heard Wednesday in Cumberland County District Court, but the prosecution and defense agreed to put off the case. The next court date is May 9.

The civil lawsuit seeks at least $25,000 in damages plus lawyer fees.

“The goal of the litigation is not just money,” said lawyer J. William Owen, who is representing the estate. “‘We could get money without the lawsuit. It’s to find out more about the facts leading up to the accident.”

A lawsuit brings the power of the court to bear to force parties and agencies to give up information that they might otherwise not share, Owen said.

Also, Owen said, the family wants to call attention to the public safety factor.

“My clients are interested in the community just understanding how dangerous it is for mail carriers,” Owen said. “People are not paying attention. I think there’s been a lot of close calls before.”

The lawsuit alleges that around 12:25 p.m. on Oct. 31, Armwood had stopped his mail truck on Morganton Road to deliver mail to nearby homes. It says that per post office policy and practice, Armwood was parked by the side of the road but in a travel lane and had his amber lights flashing to warn oncoming traffic he was there.

Wright was traveling about 40 mph and failed to reduce speed, the lawsuit says, and she hit the truck from behind. The suit says the Postal Service truck flipped onto its side and Armwood was crushed underneath.

The suit accuses Wright of violating North Carolina’s law that prohibits texting on a cell phone while driving. She has not been accused of this by law enforcement,and her lawyer, Jonathan Charleston of Fayetteville, says it’s untrue.

“She was not texting at the time of the accident. She was not on her cell phone at the time of the accident,” Charleston said Wednesday.

Owen said he put that accusation in the complaint because a notation on the Police Department crash report describes Wright as being distracted at the time of the crash. The notation, a code number in a box in the right margin of the report, does not indicate what might have distracted Wright.

Charleston said police reports aren’t always accurate. “There’s no evidence or other information to suggest to us that there was any basis in the report to suggest that she was distracted in any way,” he said.

The church was named as a defendant, Owen said, because he does not know whether Wright was conducting church business at the time of the crash. If she was, the church would share liability, he said.

Wright was on a personal errand, Charleston said, that had nothing to do with the church.

Wright is remorseful, he said.

“My client is extremely saddened by the loss of life resulting from this accident,” he said. “She’s extremely sorry for this family’s loss. And she deals with that every day.”

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at or 486-3512.