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Henderson man sentenced to prison for second wife’s killing

Updated August 3, 2022 - 5:58 pm

A Henderson man who was sentenced to prison on Wednesday for killing his second wife has also been charged in California in connection with his first wife’s death, attorneys said.

“Karen was not the first woman to die in a horrific manner while married to Alan Sylwester,” the sister of Karen Byer said during the sentencing hearing.

At the time of Byer’s death in 2019, Alan Sylwester had been questioned in the death of his first wife, Laura Gilliom, in 2011 in Livermore, California. He has since been charged in connection with her death, which happened under circumstances similar to those surrounding Byer’s killing, defense attorney Robert Langford said Wednesday.

Records from Alameda County Superior Court of California show that an arrest warrant was filed on May 28, 2019, and Sylwester was charged with murder on March 9, 2020, in connection with Gilliom’s death.

The charge related to Gilliom’s death came just over a year after Byer was found dead inside the couple’s Lake Las Vegas home on March 4, 2019, according to Sylwester’s arrest report.

She appeared to have been suffocated and had bruising and cuts on her body.

Sylwester, 66, pleaded guilty in April to second-degree murder of a victim older than 60 in connection with Byer’s killing. District Judge Jacqueline Bluth sentenced him to between 15 and 45 years in prison.

Byer’s sister, Laura Coor, said the 63-year-old woman was a beloved aunt, daughter and sister who is “deeply mourned and profoundly missed” by her family.

“Karen was taken from us with unspeakable violence and evil intent,” Coor said.

Police who investigated both women’s deaths found handcuffs in their bedrooms and bruising on the women’s bodies. After each wife’s death, Sylwester told investigators that he had “rough sex” with her the previous night using the handcuffs.

Sylwester addressed the judge briefly during his sentencing hearing.

“I’m sorry it’s come to this, and I hope that the Coors and my family can forgive me,” he said.

Byer and Sylwester had met in the fourth grade and reconnected in early 2018, the arrest report said.

Years earlier, Sylwester’s first wife died within hours of searching “separation vs. divorce” on the internet, according to the California arrest warrant.

Sylwester told police that on March 28, 2011, the night before he found Gilliom’s body, they had an argument about money he had withdrawn to pay for sex workers. Bank statements found in their home that were printed on the date of the argument showed $20,100 in withdrawals, the warrant said.

Gilliom also had emailed a friend on that date, writing: “Al and I are having ‘issues’ again,” the warrant said.

About 3:10 p.m. on March 29, 2011, the couple’s 11-year-old daughter called 911 and told a dispatcher that her father said to call because her mother needed medical help, according to the warrant. Investigators found Gilliom’s naked body lying next to their bed, covered in a blanket.

An investigator wrote in the report that it looked as if “someone had dragged her or moved her into that position” and that her body was “not consistent as though someone had a sudden unexpected death, or a spontaneous medical condition.”

Sylwester told police that he had last seen Gilliom about 9 a.m. But phone records showed that Sylwester had called a man who lived in Georgia about 9:35 a.m. The man later told police that Sylwester told him: “Laura is dead.”

After an autopsy, Gilliom’s cause of death was ruled “undetermined in an individual with blunt force injuries and Bupropion and Venlafaxine intoxication,” the warrant said. Both drugs are antidepressants.

The investigator who authored the warrant noted that Sylwester was a chemist who owned his company. The warrant also indicated that Gilliom did not leave a suicide note.

“Based on the facts listed above, it is my opinion that Laura did not commit suicide or died of some sudden medical condition,” the warrant said. “Through Laura’s friends and family, she was looking forward to future events.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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