Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DASTARDLY DADS FROM THE ARCHIVES (Snohomish County, Washington - 2004)

With the latest surge of father-committed, custody-related murders, it's easy to forget that this isn't entirely phenomenon. Here's a 2004 case from the state of Washington. Interesting way this article is written. We start out with all kinds of disclaimers about how Dad STEPHEN BYRNE was a "wonderful man" who was "devoted" to his daughters--as if the shooting deaths of his two daughters in a murder-suicide was a total mystery.

And then we find out what this dad was really like. And what we find is this: Byrne actually fit the classic killer daddy profile to a T. In reality, there was no mystery about him at all.

Notice that this father complained a lot about the mother having "primary custody"--something fathers used to gripe about a lot, especially a few years ago, when primary custody (for mothers) was a little more common. In fact, the fathers rights movement frequently seized on "primary custody" (by the mother) to explain away the acts of these killer fathers, and to rouse public sympathy for the poor daddy's plight.

But the "primary custody" part was actually a lie in this case. In fact if you read a little further, you'll see that the father had 40 percent of the nights and saw the girls "several times a week." So much for being shut out of his children's lives. He basically had joint custody.

And then you gradually discover that Daddy's "devotion" was really more like obsessive stalking. Even his own lawyer described the father as "fixated" on custody issues. Even with a "shared" custody arrangement in fact, this man endlessly complained about his "anger and frustration" with the legal system. He basically wanted total control. Maybe because he was behind in child support--and wanted the checks to flow in his direction. And maybe because he was clearly abusive with a lot of coercive control issues--notice all the references to how his "anger management" problem caused him to "blow up" and even become physically violent (shoving his pregnant wife).

So what we really come up with is this. Not a father who was "shut out" of his children's lives, but a father who was way too involved. A father with a history of violence who shouldn't have been allowed custody or visitation at all. In essence, an abusive father who was totally emeshed and entitled. So entitled that he shot the kids to death to solidify his total control in one big blood bath.

And unfortunately, it seems the authorities have learned very little about these guys since 2004. If anything, the problem is getting worse, not better.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:14 A.M.
It could take weeks to learn how girls died

By Jennifer Sullivan and Brandon Sprague
Times Snohomish County Bureau

Hayley Byrne, 9, and her sister were found dead Monday in their father's home. He was found shot to death.

It may take several weeks to determine the cause of death of two young sisters who were found Monday afternoon at the Edmonds home of their father, who was also found dead.

Autopsies were performed yesterday on sisters Hayley Byrne, 9, and Kelsey Byrne, 11, and their father, Stephen Byrne, 50. Police are investigating the incident as a murder-suicide.

When authorities burst into Stephen Byrne's house Monday, they found Hayley and Kelsey Byrne tucked inside their beds in the room they shared when they visited their father. Because the girls showed no evident trauma, their cause of death won't be known until toxicology tests are completed, said Edmonds Assistant Police Chief Al Compaan.

Byrne was found in the back yard, shot dead from a wound to his head.

Byrne's former lawyers say the man was fixated on his divorce case and tried to control every legal maneuver — especially when it came to custody of his daughters.

When Byrne's ex-wife was granted primary custody, it didn't stop him from pushing for more time with the children.

Byrne's devotion to his daughters is undisputed.

He saw the girls several times a week, and after his ex-wife, Suzanne Dawson, moved from Bainbridge Island to Shoreline, he followed by moving to Edmonds.

But what caused Byrne to apparently kill his daughters, before turning his shotgun on himself, is causing police, relatives and family friends to question everything they ever knew about the 50-year-old man.

"Steve was a wonderful man," Shannon Byrne Brower, Byrne's sister, said last night from her home in Estero, Fla. "He had beautiful daughters he loved very much."

Brower said the girls' mother "also loved them very much."

Nothing appeared out of the ordinary when people saw Byrne and his daughters at his home in the Seaview neighborhood, in the 8100 block of 188th St. Southwest, on Sunday. But less than a day later, police and medics frantically stormed the house after police say Stephen Byrne called 911 demanding medics and police attention.

Four minutes before the 911 call, Byrne apparently sent an e-mail to eight people — friends, relatives and his ex-wife, Compaan said. In the e-mail, Byrne indicated "anger and frustration" with the legal system. He was upset with the custody agreement and thought he didn't get to see the children enough, Compaan said.

"He pretty much (in the e-mail) set the stage for what we found," Compaan said. "It was clear after reading the e-mail we were going to find an unpleasant scene."

Outside of Dawson's Shoreline home last night, Oliver Feeback of Bothell, the girls' uncle, said the family "could never have imagined something like this would occur."

"Our family is devastated by the deaths of these two wonderful girls. Our plea is that more people will be able to receive the counseling they need in order to avert such tragedies," Feeback read in a statement.

"We are in the process of making painful decisions and we'll let others know when plans have been finalized. The (medical examiner) is expected to release the girls tomorrow."

Liz Feeback, the girls' aunt, said there is a large extended family, mostly in Bothell, that is dealing with the pain and anguish.

Byrne filed for divorce in 1999, and the marriage was dissolved in October 2000, according to Kitsap County Superior Court records.

In court papers, Dawson said that early in their marriage Byrne "had an anger control problem."

Dawson said he would "blow up and scream and be verbally abusive when he could not get his way." She said that when she was eight months pregnant with Hayley, her husband "blew up and pushed me around," according to court papers.

Patty Velasquez, who lived next door to Dawson on Bainbridge Island, said that during the divorce Dawson had to communicate with Byrne via e-mail.

"I remember him being very verbally aggressive," Velasquez said. "It became a situation where she felt so uncomfortable about talking to him in public."

When Dawson told Byrne she planned to move to Shoreline so she could be closer to her work in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, he took her to court. The couple had an agreement in which the girls spent 60 percent of all nights with Dawson, according to court papers.

Dawson was allowed to relocate. She moved to Shoreline, and the girls were enrolled in Sunset Elementary School. Byrne followed and rented the home in Edmonds last year.

A spokesman with the Department of Social and Health Services said yesterday that Byrne owed $8,673 in overdue child support and a lien was placed on his property.