A 74-year-old Leavenworth woman asleep with her new handgun was ready when the sound of a burglar breaking her door open startled her awake.
According to police, she met the intruder at the top of the stairs and fired a single, fatal shot to his head, while a 911 dispatcher on the phone listened in.
Police soon arrived to find 41-year-old Ralph Byrd Jr. dead at the bottom of the stairs, and the woman in the grip of a heart attack.
“Obviously,” Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson announced Thursday, “the county attorney is not going to file charges against the 74-year-old woman.”
She is recovering from her medical crisis, Thompson said. He said he thinks she is going to be OK, physically.
But, as a neighbor who knows the woman said, the ordeal has been terribly stressful for her.
“It’s not something she wanted to do, but it is something that had to be done,” Jeff Marrin said. The woman, whom The Star is not identifying for her safety, has lived on his block for more than 10 years.
While it became clear that no charges would be filed, Thompson said, Leavenworth police investigated the shooting as a homicide.
Leavenworth Police Major Dan Nicodemus said detectives were thorough. But in the end, “it was pretty cut and dried.”
“She called 911. She stayed on the phone. She confronted the burglar and she defended herself.”
As far as police know, Byrd was alone when he allegedly forced his way into the house about 1:15 a.m. Saturday, Nicodemus said.
The woman had reported an attempted burglary of her home about a week before, Thompson said. After that, she obtained a .22-caliber handgun that, Thompson said, she took with her to bed at night.
The result, Thompson said, was “a tragic incident … of someone losing his life and also a 74-year-old woman suffering a heart attack.”
Marrin, the neighbor, said his daughter has checked in on the woman and that she is still shaken by what happened.
People in this neighborhood, where many homes were built before 1900, are taking care of each other, he said.
“Everyone is much more alert,” he said. “Most of us have our own firearms. You’ll see everybody has their porch lights on.”
Byrd, court records show, had been convicted in 2017 of an attempted home burglary.
Neighbors have told the woman they will watch over her, Marrin said.
“I’m very proud of her,” he said. “I’m glad she’s safe.”
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