Police say blood found in the suspect’s car matched the DNA of the victim, Lalita “Lita” Byrnes.
A judge found probable cause Friday to hold a 25-year-old man in connection with the stabbing death of his roommate last month in the victim’s Wallingford home after investigators say they linked blood found in the man’s vehicle to the crime.
Ian Eugene Flaherty is being held at the King County Jail in lieu of $1.5 million bail. His next court appearance is Monday, when charges are expected to be filed.
Seattle police arrested Flaherty early Thursday in connection with the slaying of Lalita “Lita” Byrnes, 38. A friend found Byrnes dead March 12 inside her home in the 1300 block of North 43rd Street.
Byrnes had been stabbed numerous times and a bloody knife was recovered near her body, according to a probable cause statement by Seattle police Detective Jennifer Southworth.
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After the grim discovery, Flaherty showed up at the home later in the day. Police interviewed him there and later at police headquarters, Southworth wrote.
“During both interviews, Flaherty stated that the night before … he was at the home and was attacked by Byrnes and a friend of hers named Ethan,” the detective’s statement said. “Flaherty stated that he left the residence immediately after the attack, went to his vehicle and drove to work. He also stated both times that Byrnes was not injured when he left the residence.”
Investigators say they found a significant amount of blood inside the home and signs that someone attempted to clean it up, but Flaherty told detectives “there would be no reason for Byrnes’ blood to be anywhere on his person or property,” Southworth wrote.
During interviews, police also noted minor injuries on Flaherty’s left fingers, which he claimed were “ caused by Byrnes biting his hand,” according to the statement. “The injuries on Flaherty’s fingers were not consistent with injuries from a bite.”
Detectives later obtained a search warrant for Flaherty’s vehicle and found bloodstains inside. After samples were collected and tested at the state’s crime lab, results matched samples of Byrnes’ DNA, Southworth reported.
Byrnes’ killing shocked neighbors and friends, who described her as a pillar in Wallingford who led by example and built bonds of community through her kindness.
“Lita was my very dear friend and I am heartbroken, as you can imagine,” Molly Donovan, who administers the Fremont/Wallingford Neighborhood page on Facebook, told The Seattle Times. “I am grateful to SPD, and more than anything I want justice for Lita. She left quite a legacy in her gentle, fierce way for inclusion and kindness.”
Flaherty, 25, grew in the Wenatchee area, according to an aunt. His Facebook page says he attended Eastmont High School in East Wenatchee and had worked as a supervisor at UPS in Seattle since 2016.
His only prior legal troubles in Washington were for minor traffic infractions, court records show.