0

Slain teacher was 'Daddy's princess'

By

Richard Byrd said the man charged in his daughter's murder had never exhibited any physical signs that he would ever harm her.

Friday, however, things changed.

Dana Gregory McFarlane, of Snellville, flagged down a Rockdale County Sheriff's lieutenant and turned himself in, in connection with the stabbing death of Kinaya Schenese Byrd at her Stockbridge home, police said.

The 35-year-old Snellville man, and the 34-year-old Stockbridge woman had been making plans for their wedding.

Now, McFarlane is being held in the Henry County Jail, awaiting a preliminary court hearing set for 8:30 a.m., on Feb. 24, at the jail.

Richard Byrd said he was in a state of depression, and has reached out to a psychiatrist to deal with his loss. "I love my daughter more than Jesus loves you," Byrd said, "and that man took her from me."

The Byrd family will hold a wake Thursday, from 6 p.m., until 8 p.m., at Murray Brothers Cascade Chapel, 1199 Utoy Springs Road in Atlanta.

The funeral will be held Friday at 1 p.m., at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, 1540 Pryor Road in Atlanta. The church's senior pastor, Dr. Thomas L. Bess, will preside over the services. Flowers and other expressions of sympathy can be delivered or mailed to the chapel.

Kinaya Byrd meant the world to her father. She was his only child, he said, and he made sure she was always taken care of — from paying the tuition for her undergraduate studies at Spelman College, to giving her $800 one Christmas to purchase a big-screen television set.

"You talk about her being ‘Daddy's princess,' " Byrd said. "Everybody knew she was.

"I had what you call ‘a gut feeling,'" he continued. "He made me, and her, feel she was safe with him, but I still had this gut feeling that something wasn't right, because he loved her too much."

The grieving father said Monday that he spoke with his daughter by telephone the day before she was killed. Police said Byrd was killed Friday, Feb. 12. Father and daughter talked about how she and her fiancé, McFarlane, had gotten into an argument while making wedding plans.

"He had gotten upset, and I asked her if everything was all right," Byrd said. "She just said ‘Nah, Dad, everything is fine.' I didn't want to be too controlling of her life, so I left it at that. If you get too controlling over your children, they'll run away and marry the guy against your wishes.

Teaching was everything to Kinaya Byrd, her father said.

"All she's ever seen was education," he said, adding that his daughter's passion for teaching came from her late mother. "It meant [to her] that ‘I'm doing what my mama wanted to do, what I was meant to do.'"

The death of the River's Edge Elementary School teacher has left relatives, friends, co-workers, and neighbors grieving.

"It was a sad thing that happened; she was very, very quiet," said Miriam Hitchye, a neighbor who has known the second-grade, Clayton County teacher for the past two years.

"I would see her working out in the yard, planting flowers," Hitchye continued. "She had a dog [a small pitbull] that she would walk, and seemed to be very happy."

"We lost a great person," added Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley. "We lost a great colleague, confidant, friend, teacher and mentor."

The superintendent said he will accompany grief counselors to River's Edge today to offer support to students, teachers, administrators and staff members. He said the counselors will remain at the school as long they are needed.

Byrd said his daughter could read when she was 3 years old. She started the first grade at the Christ the King School in Atlanta, when she was 4. And she, later, fluently spoke, wrote and read in Spanish. She graduated from Spelman College in May 1998 with a bachelor's degree in Spanish.

"The college is saddened by this tragic and unfortunate loss of our alumnae," said Eloise Alexis, vice president of college relations at Spelman.

The Byrd family has maintained an annual scholarship fund at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Atlanta for more than a decade, in honor of her mother, a teacher and a principal in Atlanta Public Schools, said cousin, Lanna Adams.

"She [ Kinaya] was very active in the church, along with her father," said Adams. "She was studious. She was smart and cheerful ... a very charming young lady. She wanted to make a change with young people."

Byrd said that prior to working in the Clayton County School System, his daughter taught at the Crème de la Crème early childhood learning center in Buckhead.

According to Clayton County Education Association President Sid Chapman, Kinaya Byrd was also was a member of the CCEA.