Seth Lyons knew Anthony Garro for just a few minutes before he beat him to death.
In a statement to police that was played at his trial, Lyons tells cops that on the night of Nov. 29, 2017, Garro offered him a sandwich as they sat on a discarded couch in a trash-strewn railroad cut underneath the Elmendorf Street Bridge in Midtown. Lyons, 20, had been up for several days straight — smoking crack, living on the street and feeling suicidal. Garro, he told police, offered to talk to him about problems. Instead, Lyons suspecting — apparently falsely — that Garro had taken his cell phone, viciously attacked him as he was sleeping. Lyons battered Garro to death with bricks, bottles and a large boulder. Then he left Garro’s partially nude corpse next to the tracks beneath a discarded Christmas tree.
On Monday, Dec. 17, members of Garro’s family attended Lyons sentencing in Ulster County Court and told Judge Donald Williams that their loved one’s offer of a sandwich and a sympathetic ear to a troubled young stranger was exactly what they would expect from Garro — a compassionate and generous man whose life was derailed by a genetic defect and an unconquerable addiction to alcohol.
“He saved your life, that is exactly what he did,” said Garro’s longtime girlfriend Laurie Difalco. “He was trying to help you, because that’s the kind of person he was.”
Lyons, formerly of Port Ewen, was convicted of second-degree murder following a jury trial in Ulster County Court. At trial, defense attorney Bryan Rounds argued that his client, who had a long history of mental illness, acted out of “extreme emotional disturbance” brought on by drug use and lack of sleep. Rounds also argued that Lyons did not actually intend to kill Garro in the frenzied attack.
In his remarks prior to sentencing, Judge Williams said he wholeheartedly agreed with jurors’ rejection of both arguments. Williams went on to sentence Lyons to the maximum, 25 years to life in state prison. Williams said he would also recommend that Lyons serve his time separated from the general prison population and that he receive intensive treatment for mental illness while behind bars.
“You are a dangerous peril to commit violent acts upon others if permitted by this court, or the Division of Parole,” said Williams.
The family speaks
Prior to sentencing, Garro’s parents, sister, aunt and girlfriend spoke about his life and struggles in a victim impact statement. Anthony Garro Sr. told the court that he and his wife adopted Anthony as a newborn in 1968. All they knew about his parents is that they were Native American migrant workers. Garro, a scientist and academic, said that he would later learn that his son suffered from brain damage caused by in utero exposure to alcohol. His son, Garro said, suffered from a severe learning disability and had become a full-blown alcoholic by age 15. As an adult he worked sporadically, and often lived on the streets as he struggled with his addiction.
Garro settled in Kingston in the early 2000s. He was the father to a 17-year-old daughter who was raised in New Jersey by her grandparents. Garro Sr. said that despite his struggles, his son remained a valued member of the family who he recalled as an avid fisherman, a talented artist and a standout athlete.
“We never lost hope that turn from that life and return to our family,” said Garro of his son’s life on the streets. “But Mr. Lyons took that hope from us.”
Difalco told the court that she and Garro had been together for a decade and that he frequently lived with her. Garro, she said, was a “savior” who would often be penniless because he had given away his last few dollars to someone a little worse off. A few years ago, she said, he witnessed a 17-year-old boy struck by a train in Kingston. By the time police arrived, Garro had stripped nearly naked using his clothes as tourniquets in a vain attempt to save the boy’s life. Other family members spoke of sleepless nights and disturbing intrusive thoughts of Garro’s last moments that have haunted them since his death.
“He has no soul, no conscience, no idea of mercy, no sense of right or wrong,” said Dawn Garro of her brother’s killer. “And because of that we will be left hurting for the rest of our lives.”