Richard Lyon: Architecture and Arsenic

Nancy Dillard’s Husband Fooled Everyone at First
(“Writer’s Block,” Forensic Files)

If the story of Nancy Dillard Lyon’s death sounds a little familiar, it’s because her husband chose to kill her via poisoning, the same method used by Dr. Anthony Pignataro, the subject of a recent blog post.

A young Nancy Dillard

Pignataro, an egomaniacal plastic surgeon, failed in his efforts. Debbie Pignataro survived the doses of arsenic the doctor slipped into her food and lived to see him imprisoned.

No showboat. Nancy Dillard Lyon wasn’t so lucky. The architect died on January 14, 1991 after her husband, Richard, also an architect, sneaked harmful chemicals — one of them arsenic — into her comestibles over a long stretch of time.

He almost got away with it.

Unlike the narcissistic Pignatoro, Lyon was an outwardly modest man respected in his profession and in his community in Dallas, Texas.

The 34-year-old father of two managed to evade suspicion until after his wife died.

And even then, he supplied his defense attorneys with an armory of hard-to-refute evidence.

Nancy and Richard Lyon wed after grad school

Media binge. But the criminal justice system nailed Lyon, who had an Ivy League degree, just the same. It’s always refreshing to see investigators untangle a plot concocted by someone sure he can outsmart them.

The story became the subject of not only the Forensic Files episode “Writer’s Block” but also an hour-long Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice entitled “Traces of Evil,” and a made-for-TV movie called Death in Small Doses starring Tess Harper, Richard Thomas, and Glynnis O’Connor.

Upcoming posts will offer a recap of “Writer’s Block” along with some other research about the case as well as an epilogue for Richard Lyon, who is 60 years old and still among the living.

Until then, cheers. RR  

Update: Read Part 2

2 thoughts on “Richard Lyon: Architecture and Arsenic”

  1. The case of Doc Pignatoro raises the thought that people tend to assume a doctor’s ethics are super-human, and certain pigs take advantage. Television shows like Marcus Welby, M.d. and Ben Casey served as commercial propaganda. In reality, doctors are callous, greedy posers. Too, people from lots of professions manage normally in their communities while committing fulsome felonies. Thanks again for bringing out the human side!

    1. We need a middleground between trusting doctors like they’re all Marcus Welby and dismissing all Western medicine doctors as money-hungry opportunists.

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