Richard Lyons told police that he rushed his daughter’s limp and lifeless body to a hospital after finding it in an alley near his home on Chicago’s South Side in July 2008, NBC Chicago reports.
He told investigators that his daughter, Mya, had been attacked by a burglar who was trying to break into a basement. He said she had likely stumbled upon the burglar as she was returning home after breaking curfew, the report says.
But two years later, he was arrested and charged with the crime. And Friday, a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in her death, NBC says.
“This wasn’t a stranger … nor a manic my daughter happened to wonder upon. This was her father,” Mya’s mother, Ericka Barnes, told reporters after the verdict was read. “She loved her father. The fact that he could do something like this to her … it hurts me.”
Lyons’ attorneys argued that a would-be burglar strangled the girl and repeatedly stabbed her, they said, saying that prosecutors have no motive, eyewitnesses or direct physical evidence proving Lyons killed his daughter.
But prosecutors charged that Lyons killed his daughter in order to keep her from talking. Blood splatter found on his white tennis shoes was the only physical evidence tying him to the murder.
“He stabbed her to keep her from telling her story,” Assistant State’s Attorney Fabio Valentini said, according to NBC. “And he also stabbed her to make it appear a crazy person wandering through an alley killed her instead of him.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said, “The blood spatter was key. There were other evidence, but that was key. We are not quite sure what the motive was, but this is a horrendous crime to think that a father could do that.”
Scores of Chicagoans attended Mya’s funeral. Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama sent a personal note that was read at the service. “I cannot pretend to understand the struggle that you have been forced to endure as a result of this senseless violence …,” Obama wrote, adding, “As a parent myself, I can only imagine the unbearable pain you are experiencing as well as the uncertainty of so many questions left unanswered.”