SEATTLE -- A man accused of killing a popular Wallingford woman appeared in court for the first time Friday.
A $1.5 million bail was set for the 25-year-old man accused of stabbing to death 38-year-old Lita Byrnes in her home March 12. The suspect was Lita's roommate.
A judge said the defendant was a danger to the community as well as a flight risk.
Q13 News is not releasing his name because he has not been formally charged with a crime yet.
The murder of the beloved Wallingford woman struck a chord with the community.
Lita’s memorial is still going strong at the corner of 43rd and Interlake and the words “Keep it Kind” continues to pop up along the streets of Wallingford.
Friends and family members say Lita said those three words all the time.
“She was kind of bubbly, outspoken and caring,” said Lita’s mom, Kathy Sa’.
You can see the pain in Kathy’s face. The fact that there is a man now behind bars accused of her daughter’s murder can’t erase that pain.
“I feel really sad because it’s not going to get my daughter back,” Kathy said.
But Kathy is relieved about the arrest not just for her family but for the community.
“I know my daughter would want this and I know she would want other people not to be concerned (with) anyone else being hurt,” Kathy said.
“This is unfathomable, that this happened,” friend Liz Jurcik said.
Liz says every time she went to visit Lita, the roommate was in his room so she never interacted with him.
Liz says an old roommate moved out and so Lita ended up with the new roommate to share her two-bedroom place.
The two did not know each other before the arrangement and lived at the same place for about eight months before the tragedy.
Months into sharing the home, Liz says, Lita mentioned she was not getting along with her new roommate.
“But she never mentioned that she was feeling unsafe,” Liz said.
No one saw the tragedy coming, especially to someone like Lita who friends say always put others before herself.
“She was instrumental in bringing this neighborhood together, she was so kind so caring so inclusive,” Liz said.
In court on Friday, it was revealed that the defendant did not have a criminal history.
Court documents released on Friday revealed the defendant denied killing Lita. But investigators say during the questioning they noticed minor injuries to his left fingers. The defendant claimed Lita bit him during a fight on March 11. He says he left the house after the fight but that Byrnes was not injured.
Investigators say the injury on his fingers was not consistent with a bite and when detectives searched the defendant’s car they found traces of blood. Forensic testing confirmed the blood belongs to Lita, police said.