COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — More than five years after Mya Lyons' brutal murder gripped the city, her father appeared in court Tuesday to face a jury who will decide if he's to blame.
Nine-year-old Mya was found the night of July 14, 2008, by her father, Richard Lyons, limp and bloody in an alley near their home in the 8400 block of South Gilbert Court, according to initial reports.
He rushed her to the hospital and later told authorities that he'd discovered Mya in a patch of weeds about 10 lots from his house after she'd disappeared from home.
"It would be a lot more comfortable if some stranger, some mysterious boogeyman, beat and stabbed and killed that 9-year-old girl," Fabio Valentini, chief of the Cook County State's Attorney's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, said during opening statements at Lyons' trial Tuesday.
"Sometimes, the truth is ugly. The truth is [Richard Lyons] killed his 9-year-old daughter."
Valentini accused Lyons of trying to cover up evidence that he had killed his own child when he stabbed her repeatedly to make it look like a "maniac" had attacked her and then dumped her body in an alley down the street from his house.
Mya was a "typical" little girl, the prosecutor said.
"She was not a problem child, not a runaway. ... She was not the kind of kid who walked out of the door of her home late at night without people knowing about it," he said.
Valentini said the night of her death Mya and her older brother stayed out later than usual at a neighbor's house.
When she returned home after 11 p.m., Lyons beat his daughter so savagely that he killed her or knocked her out so that she appeared dead, he said. Then, when Lyons thought the girl was deceased, he decided to cover it up.
He stabbed Mya repeatedly in the back of his van and put her in the alley, prosecutors said, so that Lyons — "the hero" — could discover her a short time later and play the part of a devastated parent.
Defense attorney Andrea Webber insisted Lyons' actions the night of Mya's murder were those of "a truly upset father who rushed his daughter to the hospital to try and save her life."
But in January 2011, more than two years after the murder, Lyons was arrested and charged with her murder.
Police questioned the father but did not suspect him in Mya's death, prosecutors said.
Lyons was allowed to drive home from the police station in his bloody van, Valentini said, and he washed it vigorously later the same day.
Before Lyons' arrest, independent investigators hired by the state determined that blood splattered in unlikely spots inside the father's van proved that Mya was killed inside the vehicle.
Calling on jurors to be skeptical of the investigator's testimony, Webber alleged that prosecutors "were going to solve this case at any cost."
She argued that Lyons had no motive to murder his daughter and that prosecutors don't have evidence to convince jurors otherwise.
The trial continued Tuesday afternoon.