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Crime News

Man Accused Of Killing First Wife Sentenced For Second Wife's Murder After Initial ‘Rough Sex’ Defense

Nevada investigators found evidence of a recent sex act at the 2019 crime scene of Karen Byer, who died from asphyxiation. Seven years earlier, Byer's husband, Alan Sylwester, was accused of killing his first wife, whom he claimed also died as a result of rough sex.  

By Jax Miller
A police handout of Alan Sylwester

A Nevada man once suspected of killing his first wife was just sentenced for the murder of wife number two, according to court records.

Alan Sylwester, 62, entered a guilty plea for charges related to the 2019 murder of Karen Byer, 63, whom he’d only married five months earlier, according to CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV. Court records reviewed by Oxygen.com show Sylwester was charged with second-degree murder and robbery of a victim over 60 years old.

Sylwester reportedly entered an Alford plea in April for the murder charge, which is essentially a guilty plea acknowledging the state had enough evidence to convict while never directly admitting to the crime, according to Fox affiliate KVVU-TV. On Wednesday, District Judge Jacqueline Bluth sentenced Sylwester to 15 to 45 years behind bars.

Oxygen.com reached out to Sylwester’s attorney and the Clark County District Attorney's Office for comment but did not receive word back. 

On the morning of March 4, 2019, officers with the Henderson Police Department responded to the couple’s Henderson residence, where Byer was found dead in her bedroom, according to police. Per KVVU-TV, police found Byer’s naked body on the bedroom floor, where Sylwester claimed he moved her when attempting to administer CPR.

Authorities listed Byer’s death as homicide by asphyxiation while noting bruises on the victim’s wrists and elbows.

Investigators found sex-related items on the nightstand nearby, including handcuffs and lubricant, per a police report obtained by KLAS-TV. Markings on the victim’s neck were consistent with manual strangulation, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Sylwester told responding officers that he and Byer had known one another since the fourth grade, only having reconnected in 2018, less than a year before Byer’s death, according to KVVU-TV. When asked about the suspicious markings on her body, Sylwester allegedly told investigators his wife fell off a ladder days earlier and previously underwent treatment for lymphoma, according to the Sun.

When police confronted Sylwester about Byer’s injuries being inconsistent with a fall, he reportedly opened up about their intimate relationship, telling officers Byer died as a result of rough sex.

An unnamed friend of the couple told investigators something was “off” about Sylwester and Byer’s relationship and claimed Sylwester previously made statements about wanting to dissolve the marriage because Byer allegedly became obsessive, according to KVVU-TV.

The same friend also told investigators to look into the death of Sylwester’s first wife, Laura Rhea Gilliom, according to ABC Las Vegas affiliate KTNV. In that case, Sylwester also claimed his wife died due to “rough sex.”

Gilliom was found dead on March 29, 2011, in her and Sylwester’s Livermore, California home, about 45 miles southeast of San Francisco, KLAS-TV reported. According to Gilliom’s obituary, Sylwester and the 52-year-old Cal-Tech graduate had been married for 27 years and shared two daughters.

The Las Vegas Sun reported Sylwester’s first wife died from an overdose of antidepressant medication. However, the medical examiner also noted “suspicious” markings on Gilliom’s arms and wrists and ruled her death a homicide.

Handcuffs were also part of the investigation into Gilliom’s death, and she was also found nude.

Livermore Police Sgt. Steve Goard said the investigation into Gilliom’s death is still ongoing, and Sylwester has not yet been ruled out as a suspect, per the Sun.

Sylwester has not been charged in connection with Gilliom’s death.