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Man sentenced to 19 years for attack on 7-year-old girl

Casey Grove
Bob Hallinen

An Anchorage Superior Court judge on Friday sentenced Byron Syvinski to serve 19 years for punching a 7-year-old girl in the head as he tried to steal her bicycle in his Eide Street neighborhood in 2011.

Judge Jack Smith also handed Syvinski, 33, a six-month sentence Friday for attacking another neighbor prior to the assault on the girl, Am-Marie Martin, now 9.

A jury convicted Syvsinski in July on charges of first-degree and fourth-degree assault as well as robbery. It was his fourth felony conviction.

Neighbors told police Syvinski seemed delirious when he tried to take a bag from a teenager in his driveway, then punched the teen's father, Roberto Delreal. The Delreals fought off Syvinski, who turned his attention to Martin as she sat, defenseless, on a child's pink bike in her driveway, according to a sentencing memorandum filed in court Friday by prosecutors.

Syvinski knocked Martin off the bicycle, punched her twice in the head and tried to take the bike but neighbors held onto him until police arrived, prosecutors said.

At the Friday sentencing hearing, Judge Smith said the seemingly random, "horrendous" violence that June day deeply affected the neighborhood.

"Even after she's on the ground, he continues to strike her," Smith said. "The neighbors respond, which may have been fortuitous. We really don't know what might've happened, whether it would've stopped at that point or continued at that point, because, frankly, he's out of control."

Smith noted Syvinski's drug abuse, mentioned in court documents for probation he served, which included abusing heroin, methamphetamine, Ecstasy and prescription pain medication. Prosecutors said that Syvinski was using "bath salts," a generic street name for synthetic methamphetamine, the day he attacked his neighbors.

But prosecutor Rob Henderson said the drug use did not fully explain the random act of violence that left Martin hospitalized. He warned Judge Smith that Syvinski would likely use drugs and lash out again if given the opportunity.

"Mr. Syvinski is not a person who's addicted to drugs and commits bad acts," Henderson said. "He is a bad person, he's a violent person who's addicted to drugs."

Syvinski's lawyer, Krista Maciolek, disagreed with Henderson and said the drug abuse and Syvinski's mental health issues were at play in the assaults. Syvinski's addiction grew out of prescriptions Syvinski had for back pain and trauma from his son dying in 2008, Maciolek said.

When it was his chance to speak, Syvinski -- looking heavier than he did at trial and wiping away tears at one point -- apologized to his neighbors and, specifically, to Martin.

"I'm terribly sorry for my acts, and I accept the sentence that the court hands down to me," he said. "All I can say is I apologize and I'm very sorry."

Martin's mother, Andrea Dunwoody, said the attack changed the neighborhood, once teeming with children playing outside. Afterward, the kids were afraid to come outside, she said.

Dunwoody said she hoped Syvinski received treatment for his apparent long-running drug abuse. She said she was glad Syvinski apologized and that her daughter, in fourth grade and at school Friday, had survived the attack.

"It shocked me, and I wish Am-Marie was here to hear him say he's sorry," Dunwoody said. "It doesn't take it all away but at least he did say it, so she can hear it. It's going to take a lot more for me to let go."

"It's hard to forget the things that happened. I'm very grateful that she's still here with me," Dunwoody said. "It's just a step forward. I hope he gets the help he needs before he is released, and it's time for my family to move forward."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com