On Friday, July 23, the Pierce County prosecutor’s office filed first-degree murder charges against a man accused of killing a security guard in Washington state earlier this month.
Denise Smith, 41, was found brutally battered and died in downtown Tacoma on July 18. Patrick Philip Byrne, a 26-year-old Army Ranger stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was charged in her death.
After learning of the charges against Byrne, the US Army issued a statement on Friday, stating, “The conduct mentioned in reports are simply deplorable.” The United States Army Special Operations Command is fully cooperating with the Tacoma Police Department.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families that have been affected by this tragedy.”
Two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, and two counts of first-degree kidnapping were filed against Byrne, who pled not guilty. According to the News Tribune, Superior Court Judge Garold Johnson ordered his bond at $2 million.
A coworker arriving for her own shift discovered Smith, a security guard, bleeding and barely breathing on July 18. Tacoma officers went to the scene. Smith had only recently begun working at the 900 block of A Street when he was discovered at 6:10 a.m.
Smith had been viciously assaulted, according to detectives, and she was pronounced dead at the spot. It was only her fifth shift on the job at the time.
The same morning, a guy now identified as Byrne made a 911 call from outside the premises. On the phone, Byrne claimed he’d been stabbed and sexually attacked, but no stab wounds were discovered on him once he was taken to the hospital, and he refused to allow hospital workers to conduct a sexual assault assessment. Byrne had a head injury, and medical officials suspected he was inebriated.
Officers discovered that Byrne had been drinking the night before Smith was discovered, and that he had gotten into a bar fight with someone before escaping to the building where Smith was discovered.
The attack, which left Smith “unrecognizable,” as prosecutors put it, was caught on tape. Footage shows Byrne, who is 6 feet tall, entering the premises and confronting Smith. Smith, who is only 5 feet tall, grabbed Byrne’s shirt to keep him from rushing past her. For the next eight to ten minutes, Byrne began to beat Smith.
During that moment, the defendant repeatedly hit the victim with his fists and grabbed her braid and “dragged her around like a rag doll,” according to the charging documents. Smith was repeatedly stopped from fleeing by Byrne, who stabbed her in the face with her keys and choked her until she passed out.
“She continuously tried to fight back and get away during the defendant’s protracted attack on the victim, but the defendant held her each time and prevented her from fleeing,” according to court papers. “He repeatedly assaulted her, threw her about by her hair braid, and overpowered her.”
Byrne then tossed items into the building and shattered a window before jumping or falling from it and landing 14 feet below on pavement. He passed unconscious outside the building for several minutes, then got up and walked away about 2 a.m. before being taken to the hospital with stab wounds, according to surveillance footage.
Byrne is being jailed at the Pierce County Jail and claims he has no recollection of the attack. He will be discharged from the army.