Richard Lyon: An Epilogue

Update on Nancy Dillard Lyon’s Killer
(“Writer’s Block,” Forensic Files)

Just a quick post this week with an epilogue for Richard Lyon.

Richard and Nancy Lyon had two daughters

The last post told the story of the poisoning death of Lyon’s wife, 37-year-old architect Nancy Dillard Lyon.

Richard Lyon pleaded not guilty at his 1991 murder trial. But a Texas court rejected his blame-the-victim strategy — which included a contention that Nancy had brought about her own slow demise by intentionally consuming arsenic and barium carbonate over a long period of time.

A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, and Lyon began a life sentence at the W.F. Ramsey Unit prison farm at the tender age of 34.

Sorry, sir. He became eligible for parole 15 years later in 2006. That bid was rejected, although the Texas Department of Justice website gives no explanation.

On his most recent review date, February 3, 2016, a parole board denied him again, and this time specified the reasons. It cited his crime as involving “elements of brutality, violence” and “conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability.”

He posed “a continued threat to public safetly,” according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

His next chance will come in 2021, when he’s 64.

In the meantime, Richard Lyon denies that he murdered his wife.

Richard Lyon, right, in a photo from from his website, which advocates for his innocence

No rescue. A website created by Richard Lyon and his supporters (whoever they are) solicits donations and pro bono legal help. He maintains that he had nothing to do with Nancy’s death:

“His supposed crime was that he poisoned his wife, Nancy, so he could inherit her money and status in the community and then, begin his new life with his mistress. This narrative has been spewed for decades and portrayed in film in addition to being plastered all over the Internet.”

Lyon has applied to the Innocence Project of Texas and New York, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Innocence Project, and the House of Renewed Hope.

So far, those organizations have declined to take on his case.

Dillard parents. If he ever does get out, he won’t find Tami Ayn Gaisford — the co-worker with whom he began an affair while married to Nancy — waiting for him. She still lives in Texas but married someone else.

As for updates on family members of the Lyons, I wasn’t able to find out who took custody of the couple’s little daughters after Richard went to prison. But Allison and Anna are adults now.

Nancy’s father, William “Big Daddy” Dillard,  died in 2006 after a 59-year marriage to Sue Stubbs Dillard that produced four children. She passed away in 2009. (They are not the same Dillards who founded the Dillard’s department store chain. Nancy’s family made its fortune in commercial real estate.)

Nancy and Richard Lyon during their marriage

Another tragedy. Incidentally, William and Sue Dillard had already lost one of their adult children, Thomas, in 1986. He died of a brain tumor.

In murdering Nancy five years later, Richard Lyon took away yet another child from the Dillard family.

Let’s hope someone brings that up at the 2021 parole hearing.

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR

Nancy Dillard Lyon’s Murder

Her 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.

Nancy and Richard met in architecture school

Pignataro, an egomaniacal underqualified 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, 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 forearmed his defense attorneys with an armory’s worth of hard-to-refute evidence.

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 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