"Why can't a girl be nice to a guy without the mook trying to murder her?"
It was the 9th of April 2016. A Saturday. Phil Lyne arrived at the home of his forty year old ex wife Ingrid Lyne in Renton, King County, Washington, United States. Even though they were divorced, Phil and Ingrid remained friends so that they could coparent their three young daughters, ten year old Noelle, eight year old Brooke and six year old Reese. Phil was dropping the girls back home in Renton after spending time with them and Ingrid was aware he was due to drop them back that morning.
When Phil arrived at the house, it was around 10am, he noticed that Ingrid's Toyota Highlander was not parked outside where it normally was. Ingrid was a nurse at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center but she was not scheduled to work that day and Phil knew she would not have made plans as she was looking forward to having the girls back home. He called her multiple times but there was no answer. Phil called Ingrid's mother, Jorga Bass, and as she had a key for Ingrid's house, she met him at the house and they entered the house together.
Jorga found Ingrid's purse, cellphone and other personal belongings like her driving license inside the house but there was no sign of Ingrid. They knew she would not have left to go somewhere without letting them know.
Jorga called 911 and reported Ingrid missing. They reached out to Ingrid's friends and neighbors and one of her friends told them that Ingrid sent her a text message the night before, the 8th of April, and said that she was on a date. That was around 10.35pm. A neighbor said that Ingrid had been dating a man called John as of late.
Jorga and Phil did not know who Ingrid was dating. But as Jorga shared a phone account with Ingrid, she could immediately access her phone records and when she looked at the phone records, she noticed that one phone number in particular was listed multiple times on the records. The number had a Montana area code. Ingrid's sister looked up the phone number with the Montana area code online and the number was connected to a Facebook account and the account holder was a man called John Robert Charlton.
Jorga sent a text message to the number asking if they knew where Ingrid was and she received a reply:
"My name is John. I thought she was with her kids today?"
"When did you see her last? She's not here, her phone is here and driver's license and purse but she's not, please respond, I've called 911."
"911? What's going on? We went to the Mariners game last night but we didn't stay the night together because she has her kids today .... not sure what she has told you about me and our relationship."
"She's missing. What time did you see her last. A police officer needs to speak to you as you may be the last person who saw her. Please call *******"
John didn't reply to that text message so Jorga sent another one:
"Can you please call me? I know your name is John Charlton so please call me."
Again, there was no response from John and Jorga sent him one final text message:
"Please John, did Ingrid say anything about someone coming to see her after you separated from her last night. We can't find her or her car. As I said her phone and ID and purse are at her house but she and her car are gone without a trace. Any help would be appreciated. We are desperate. She would never just go off and leave her family."
Later that same day, the 9th of April, a man, Mike Novasio, contacted the police. He lived near 21st Avenue and East Pine Street in Seattle and had been away for a few days. He returned home on the 9th of April and collected his trash cans from the curb outside his house. He left them outside while he was away as they were due to be collected on the 7th of April. As he wheeled them back inside, he noticed that one of the trash cans, the recycling one, felt heavier and when he opened it he saw there was something inside. He emptied the trash on to the lawn. There were three almost translucent plastic bags inside and he immediately noticed what he believed were human remains inside one of the bags. He reported it to the police. When police and the Medical Examiner arrived, they opened all three plastic bags and found a human head, a foot, an arm with a hand and a lower leg. There were no signs of decomposition and as such, the facial features were intact and distinctive and that allowed them to immediately identify the remains as belonging to a reported missing person. That person was Ingrid Lyne.
Over the next few days, more of Ingrid's remains were found. Some were found in a cooler on 20th Avenue between East Union and Marion streets, Seattle and at a recycling center on South Hanford Street, Seattle. Not all of Ingrid's remains were found.
Police searched Ingrid's house and saw tickets for the Mariners on her computer for the game on the 8th of April. The game was at 7.10pm and that was the game they believed Ingrid went to with John. They arrested John on the 11th of April and he was questioned. He told police that he knew Ingrid as they had dated for around one month. They met online. He said he often stayed at her house but the night of the 8th, he did not as her children were due back home the next morning. He told them that they went to the Mariners game and a bar after the game and then drove back to her house in Renton in her car. He could not recall many details after that. He said that he was highly intoxicated at the time. John believed they may have had sex that night and recalled that Ingrid was acting "weird" but he remembered little else. When asked what he did afterwards, if he didn't spend the night in Renton, he told police that he wasn't sure but he must have slept on a sidewalk in downtown Seattle as that was where he was when he woke up the next morning. Police asked him how he got there and he said that he assumed Ingrid drove him to downtown Seattle. He told police that he did not think Ingrid was meeting anyone else after their date that night and he had no idea what happened to her after she left him in Seattle. During the questioning, John informed police that he had a drinking problem and was currently homeless and not a normal person.
John was checked for injuries and his body was photographed. There were abrasions on his forehead and left hand. There were scratches on his chest and there were injuries to his lip and chin. His ex girlfriend told police she saw John on the 9th of April and he had a swollen and injured lip. He told her he was robbed of his money yet she noticed that he still had his wallet.
Police found Ingrid's car in downtown Seattle.
John was charged with premeditated first degree murder and theft of a motor vehicle belonging to Ingrid. The case against John was a circumstantial one. And he pleaded not guilty.
The Prosecutor in the case, Dan Satterberg, admitted that not everything in the case could be explained:
“We may never understand why she was killed, but the police and prosecutors working on this case have done a tremendous job of piecing together a solid case against the person we believe to be responsible for her death.”
The Defense legal team argued that there was no forensic evidence that linked any person to Ingrid's murder, least of all their client:
“What stands out to us is the lack of evidence connecting Mr. Charlton to these acts. We ask that the community not jump to conclusions during this tragedy.”
Despite his initial insistence that he had no idea what happened to Ingrid that night, John changed his plea to guilty before the Trial began.
The Court heard that it was the Prosecution's case that John murdered Ingrid inside her home by strangling her and then he dismembered her body in her own bathtub using a pruning saw before putting her body parts in plastic bags. John then drove to downtown Seattle in Ingrid's car and discarded her body parts in different trash cans in Seattle. The Medical Examiner determined Ingrid died as a result of homicidal violence. A search of her house revealed an almost empty box of plastic bags, the same as the bags that her body parts were found in scattered around various locations in Seattle. In Ingrid's bathroom, near the bathtub, police found a 15 inch pruning saw and they believed that was the weapon used to dismember Ingrid. The police removed the plumbing beneath the bathtub and found blood and flesh.
John was sentenced to 27 ¾ years in prison which was the maximum that the Judge could give him under the State’s sentencing guidelines. But the Judge in the case, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector, told him that she would give him a life sentence if she could. She said:
“What you did was vicious and cruel beyond anyone’s belief.”
At his sentencing hearing, John spoke to the Court and Ingrid's family and said:
“I agree there are no words that can alleviate the pain I’ve caused. For that, I’m truly sorry.”
Prior to the murder charge, John's convictions included convictions for aggravated robbery, felony theft, grand theft motor vehicle, fourth degree assault and third degree larceny. He had also been arrested for burglary.
There were other troubling incidents in John's past. One involved his parents. John's parents, Ray and JoAnn Charlton, sought a temporary protection order against him in 2006 saying they feared for their safety because of his drunken outbursts. John told them “life was putting too much pressure on him” and he felt he was becoming mentally unstable. The Court records outlined that John tried to provoke a fight with them when he was drunk and abusive on the 2nd of March 2006. According to the records, on the 2nd of March, they found him drunk in their home in Thurston County, Washington and he acted physically threatening and verbally violent towards them. The incident took place over a couple of hours. During that period, Ray alleged that John removed the movie Hannibal from a shelf in the house and set it in front of his wife and told her she should watch this and beware. The records also indicated that John's parents believed he abused crack cocaine and stated that John:
“has been known to hold grudges for several years and exposes frustrations when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These frustrations he displays can be very intimidating and cause fear of violence.”
The petition for the order was later dismissed at the request of John's parents.
One of John's ex-girlfriends confirmed that John had a problem with drink and was a mean drunk but stated that he never hit her.
After that incident, John spent time at a shelter in Seattle and at his ex-girlfriend’s house. His ex-girlfriend told police she’d known him for about a year and let him store some belongings at her residence. During that period, from March to April, John began dating Ingrid after they met through an online dating website. He spent a few nights at her home but only occasionally and Ingrid did not tell many of her friends or her family about him as the relationship was still new. Ingrid's friends believe she tried online dating as she wanted to meet someone and was very busy looking after the girls and working as a nurse so online dating websites seemed like the best place to meet someone.
After the guilty plea and sentencing, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird, said that Ingrid's family had mixed feelings about the guilty plea:
“In one sense, of course, it spared them anguish of a very graphic and gruesome trial. On the other hand, I think that there’s something a bit anti-climactic about not having a hearing on what actually was done to Ingrid Lyne. But I think and hope that ultimately they’ll be relieved that they won’t have to delve too deeply into the events that led to her death and followed her death.”
While a guilty plea spares the family of the victim the horror of having to sit through a Trial day after day listening to harrowing details about what happened to their loved one, the actual horror of the murder itself is always on their mind and thoughts about what happened to the victim, how it happened and why can be all consuming. Sometimes a Trial, as difficult as Trials are, provide some closure in relation to some of the lingering questions families have.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
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