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Murder charge bound over in teacher's death

Defense attorneys for a Snellville man, suspected of killing his fiancee in Henry County, said their client acted in the "heat of passion."

Dana Gregory McFarlane, 35, is charged with murder, and is being held without bond in the Henry County Jail. Authorities believe McFarlane, a truck driver, killed his fiancee, 34-year-old Kinaya Schenese Byrd, in her Stockbridge home on Feb. 12, following an argument about text messages on the victim's cell phone.

A medical examiner has reportedly ruled that strangulation was the cause of death. During a preliminary hearing Wednesday, the Henry County Public Defender's Office waived a statutory bond hearing for McFarlane.

Public Defender Gary Bowman, who was present for the preliminary hearing, said his client's "sudden," alleged actions do not warrant a murder charge. "We think it should be bound over as voluntary manslaughter, because it fits the definition of voluntary manslaughter," said Bowman.

Henry County Police Detective Capers Green testified against McFarlane in the preliminary hearing in Henry County Magistrate Court. He said the suspect admitted to strangling Byrd, a teacher at River's Edge Elementary School in Clayton County, and cutting her neck moments before her death.

According to Green, officers received a call on Feb. 12, at approximately 2:30 p.m., from Byrd's neighbor, Lynwood Smith, about a "domestic disturbance" at the victim's home on Tramore Drive. The detective said police could not get anyone to answer the door at the residence, broke into the house and found the victim "lying motionless on the floor."

"It appeared like her throat was cut," Green said.

The detective testified that police found a seven-inch butcher knife, with blood on it, in the kitchen sink at the home, adding that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is running tests on the knife.

The suspect, said Green, told police he argued with Byrd in her front yard before bringing her back into the house, where he strangled her and cut her neck twice.

Green acknowledged to McFarlane's attorney, Gerald Privin, with the Public Defender's Office, that Lynwood Smith, the only witness for the state thus far, did not see the suspect strangle or cut the victim.

"He [Smith] heard a commotion outside his front lawn," said Green. "He looked outside and saw Miss Byrd on the ground, and Mr. McFarlane on top of her."

Smith, said Green, went outside to confront McFarlane, and saw the suspect "dragging" Byrd back into her house. "Mr. Smith said he saw a disturbing look on Miss Byrd's face, like she was scared," added Green. "He asked her if she needed any help or anything like that. Mr. McFarlane told him to ‘shut up, everything's fine,' drug her back into her house and shut the door."

Green said police found McFarlane later in the day, with assistance from authorities in Rockdale County. According to the detective, the suspect "flagged down" a deputy with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office the day of the incident, and "told the deputy that he had killed his fiancee."

The deputy notified Henry County Police, who took the suspect in for questioning. McFarlane, said Green, then provided further details about the events leading to Byrd's death. "He told Detective [Marc] McGowan that him and Miss Byrd had an altercation about an explicit text message," said Green. "It was from another male."

Detective Green said police are looking to see if there is any evidence of other incidents of possible violence or trouble between the victim and suspect prior to the victim's death.

Chief Magistrate Judge Robert Godwin bound over the murder charge, despite opposition from the defense. Another bond hearing for McFarlane will be set at a later date, to enable the defense to collect additional evidence in the case.