Killer sentenced to nearly half-century in prison

SEATTLE, Wash. — Tears filled a King County courtroom as the killer of a beloved Wallingford resident learned his fate.

The former roommate turned killer was sentenced to 48 years in prison. King County prosecutors say Lita Byrnes was stabbed 96 times.

Even back in 2018, it was easy to see how much Byrnes was truly loved in this community where she lived. There is now a traffic circle dedicated to her memory.

“Having Lita as my friend made me feel truly special and cared about,” said Amy Dullard.

The tears come easily for Dullard as she remembers her friend, Lita Byrnes.

Byrnes stood steadfastly by Dullard even when she herself was battling terminal pancreatic cancer.

“When it was time to head home, we stopped at Lita’s house,” said Dullard, “and I just gave her a quick hug because I thought I would see her again in just a few months when I returned to Seattle. And I wish I had held her longer.”

The devastating reason why Dullard is now unable to hug Brynes, is Byrnes’ former roommate, Ian Eugene Flaherty.

Prosecutors say in March of 2018, Flaherty stabbed Byrnes nearly 100 times, nearly decapitating her. This happened after she asked him to move out. Last October, Flaherty was found guilty of first-degree murder and deliberate cruelty.

His sentencing unleashed a flood of emotions.

“Lita was the calm that brought truth and kindness amidst a sea of dysfunction and denial of reality,” said Iris Nicholas, sister-in-law.

“Lita was my very best friend in the whole wide world,” said Amanda Bailey, her voice breaking. “And she was more than just my best friend, she was my person.”

When his turn came to speak, Flaherty expressed contrition.

“I really do lack words to express how sorry I am for the terror and pain I caused Lita in her final moments,” said Flaherty.

But Judge Patrick Oishi was not moved.

“The overwhelming factor that the court is really concerned about given the nature of the offense is public safety,” said Oishi.

And with that, he imposed a sentence of 48 years, 10 years above the state’s recommendation.

The length of the sentence was a bit of a silver lining for those who loved Lita Byrnes.