Patrick Byrne is an U.S. Army Ranger who is accused of beating a security guard named Denise Smith to death in Tacoma, Washington.
Smith was from Seattle. She was 41 years old. Byrne was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The murder occurred at a building in downtown Tacoma after Byrne confronted Smith on the tail end of a raucous night of drinking. The motive is not clear.
“During the defendant’s lengthy attack on the victim, she repeatedly tried to fight back, and she tried to get away, but the defendant grabbed her each time and prevented her from fleeing,” records say, according to The News Tribune, which noted that Byrne is 6 feet tall but the victim was only 5 feet tall. “He repeatedly overpowered her, assaulted her, and threw her around by her hair braid.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Co-Worker Found Smith ‘Unresponsive With Evident Signs of Trauma’
The injuries to Smith were extensive. “Detectives who later examined the victim reported that the victim was unrecognizable due to the severity of the injuries that were inflicted on her,” prosecutors wrote, according to the Army Times.
In a news release, police explained, “On July 18th, 2021, around 6:00 am, South Sound 911 received a call from 900 A Street. When police arrived, they were contacted by a security guard who told officers that when they arrived for their shift this morning, they located their co-worker unresponsive with evident signs of trauma. Tacoma Fire responded and pronounced the victim deceased.”
Police added in the statement, “Detectives and crime scene technicians responded, and through their investigation, Tacoma detectives identified a suspect. On July 19th, 2021, a 26-year-old male was taken into custody for Murder 1st degree.”
2. Byrne Is Accused of Beating Smith to Death & Dragging Her ‘Like a Rag Doll’ After a Night of Drinking
According to the News Tribune, charging documents show that Smith was “severely beaten,” and prosecutors say that Byrne was drunk. The motive? She tried to stop him from entering a building, they allege.
He was accused of first-degree murder, burglary and kidnapping and has entered a not guilty plea.
According to the News Tribune, Smith was only working her fifth shift at the building when she was killed. Byrne had been drinking with friends in downtown Tacoma when he was punched in the face in a bar fight, and then walking toward the building at about the same time the security guard went outside to speak with a homeless woman.
Byrne approached the door and she opened it, in an apparent attempt to tell him to leave. He beat her for 8 to 10 minutes, the newspaper reported. “During that time the defendant repeatedly punched the victim with his fists, and he grabbed her by her braid and ‘dragged her around like a rag doll,’” prosecutors wrote, according to the News Tribune.
“He punched Smith in the face, stabbed her in the face with her keys, tried to gouge out her eyes with the keys and then flipped her onto her stomach and tried to choke her,” the newspaper noted. King5 reported that he left the scene and claimed he was sexually assaulted and stabbed, but he was never examined for the former and had no wounds indicating the latter was true.
The television station reported that Byrne stopped Smith from escaping and then threw furniture around the lobby.
3. People Offered Tributes to Smith, With One Friend Calling Her ‘One of the Nicest’ People
A woman wrote of Smith on Facebook, “Thank you everyone that was my husband’s baby sister, I just sent her a message on Friday and she responded with a thumb up. This is the craziest thing ever. She was one of the nicest person I know. Déjà vu 😥😢😢😢.”
Others also offered tributes to Smith on Facebook. “Rest In Peace my beautiful friend! I’ll always remember you! You where taken to soon from us!” wrote one.
She recently shared a positive meme that read, “Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong and get enough rest. You can’t do it all, but you can do your best.”
Smith’s family told King5 that she lived in Tacoma all her life and her sister Tina described her as “sweet, kind and someone who kept to herself.”
“I’m a little devastated and upset about what’s going on and the way things are being handled, being that everything is in the press and everything is out there and we’re the last to know,” Tina told the station.
“We really don’t know much of anything. Still just holding on and waiting on them to get back with me, and I would like to know a little more than what I know,” she said.
4. Byrne Was Assigned to a Ranger Regiment in Tacoma
According to the Army Times, Byrne “is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, according to an Army Special Operations Command.”
The site explained, “He entered the Army as an infantryman in March 2019. After completing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program in July 2020, Byrne was assigned to his current battalion.”
A prosecutor told the court the military is planning to discharge him, according to the News Tribune.
5. Byrne, Who Is From North Carolina, Said He couldn’t Remember the Attack
According to the News Tribune, Byrne told detectives he couldn’t remember the attack,
The newspaper reported that he is from North Carolina.
His full name is Patrick Philip Byrne.