By Jason A. Smith
On the eve of what would have been his wedding day, a Gwinnett County man was convicted of murdering his fiancee.
Dana Gregory McFarlane, 36, of Snellville, was found guilty, Friday, of charges including malice murder, felony murder, and kidnapping with bodily injury.
Judge Hal Craig sentenced McFarlane to two consecutive life sentences in prison, plus five years, according to Henry County Assistant District Attorney Blair Mahaffey.
McFarlane was convicted in the death of 34-year-old Kinaya Schenese Byrd, a Clayton County schoolteacher. Byrd was found dead on Feb. 12, at her home on Tramore Drive, in Stockbridge.
Prior to Byrd's death, McFarlane and Byrd were set to wed Saturday, said Henry County Public Defender, Gary Bowman.
The jury, which consisted of seven men and five women, deliberated for less than half an hour Friday, after examining evidence in the case for more than three hours Thursday. They found McFarlane guilty of strangling Byrd, a teacher at River's Edge Elementary School in Clayton County, and cutting her throat.
McFarlane will be eligible for parole in 65 years, Mahaffey said.
The prosecutor said he was able to build a strong case against McFarlane, partially because the defendant admitted to police, on the day of Byrd's death, that he killed her.
"He talked about how he had chased her out, and caught her and brought her back into the home, and that he strangled her and cut her throat," said Mahaffey. "I think the big thing was, when he testified at trial ... that he had choked her into unconsciousness, and then went and got the knife and came back and cut her throat."
Mahaffey commended the jury for the decision they made against McFarlane.
"I gave the jury the evidence that they needed to decide the case," said Mahaffey. "I think they understood the issues, they applied the evidence to the law, and they made the correct verdict."
Mahaffey said the malice murder and felony murder convictions merged into a single life sentence for McFarlane. The other life sentence, he explained, resulted from the kidnapping charge, and another five years was added because of the weapon charge.
Richard Byrd of Atlanta, said although "justice was served" in his daughter's death, he remains grieved by the case, and its outcome.
"It's a sad day for everybody," said Richard Byrd, 70. "I hated to see that happen to my daughter, and I hated to see that happen to [McFarlane.] In the end ... both families lost a child."
The father added that he hopes people will learn from his daughter's death.
"I hope this sends a message to young men, who think they have a right to control the lives of [others] through violence."
Attempts to reach McFarlane's attorney, Public Defender Gary Bowman, were unsuccessful.