In a case that has captured the attention of the city, Dennis Kyle, 34, was accused of killing Suzanne Riceman, 32. According to friends and family, the two were in a committed relationship at the time of the murder. “They were mad tight. Lived together, went everywhere together--that was love, man,” said Anthony Kyle, 29, brother of the defendant. “It was real sad, what happened.”
The prosecutor, Amanda D. Middleton, has since pieced together an account of the night Riceman died.
Security footage shows that at 7:04 p.m. on February 22nd, 2015, Kyle arrived in the building in which he and Riceman shared an apartment. As the evening progressed, neighbors heard raised voices emanating from Kyle’s and Riceman’s home, becoming more and more violent until approximately 8:20. The noises stopped suddenly. Three minutes later, there was a gunshot.
“I called 911. What else could I have done? I was shaking so hard, and praying that no one had gotten hurt,” said neighbor Karen Michaels. “But I think I knew that was unlikely.”
When police arrived at the crime scene, they found Kyle cradling Riceman and sobbing while holding a .22 rifle.
Kyle was indicted last March and has been on trial over the course of the last week. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter with a previously unused defense: short man syndrome.
His lawyer, Jared Fine, claimed that Kyle was temporarily insane when he killed Riceman, an episode caused by his clinically recognized psycho-growth condition.
Asking the jury to view Kyle as a victim rather than a killer, Fine painted a portrait of a man who fought to live normally, but succumbed to his numerous mental and physical issues. “This is a man who has suffered a great deal in his life,” said Fine in his opening statement. “His brain and his height were both fighting against him that night.”
Kyle claimed that the height discrimination he faced permanently damaged his brain. When he felt threatened, as he did during the incident, he lost awareness of his surroundings and began to act irrationally.
“It was an awful night,” Kyle testified. “As awful for me as it was for anyone else. I’ve always been discriminated against, and my relationships with women have been… difficult. So when Suzie and I were fighting, and she told me that -- that she never loved me, and that she was only dating me because of pity… I lost control.”
At four-foot-ten, Kyle stands in the shortest 1% of adult men. Short people have been statistically proven to have lower incomes, less education, and lower rates of personal happiness.
Kyle, in particular, claimed to experience crippling disadvantages. He admitted during the trial that he had previously never been in a stable long-term relationship, and attributed his many psychological issues to his stature.
He has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anger management issues. Prior to his indictment, he attended therapy on a weekly basis, but claimed that it was never successful. Kyle also consumed a daily cocktail of pills -- some prescription, some recreational.
“The man is a drug addict,” argued Middleton. “He’s a short drug addict, yes, but his height isn’t what drove him to kill. This isn’t an issue of mental scarring. It’s an issue of first-degree murder.”
The jury seems to have sided with Middleton, as they voted 11-1 in favor of Kyle’s conviction.