A homeowner in the Central District near 21st and East Pine Street found the dismembered remains of Ingrid Lyne, a 40-year-old nurse and mother of three, less than two weeks ago. Investigators believe John Robert Charlton, a 37-year-old man with an extensive criminal record whom Lyne met through an online dating site, killed Lyne in her Renton home. Prosecutors filed a first-degree murder charge against Charlton last week. He is scheduled to be arraigned April 27.
“The tragic murder of Ingrid Lyne has left a family and community in a spiral of grief and anguish,” King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said in a statement, according to the Seattle Times. “We may never understand why she was killed.”
Media coverage of this series of events has brought to light the complicated ways people can perceive a relationship between murderer and victim. In many cases, reporters have emphasized the risks associated with online dating. By doing so, the spotlight has shifted from the murderer’s to the victim’s, leading to speculation of Lyne’s ability to protect herself. This only serves to underline a blind mistrust of strangers, and reinforces the fear that many people—women, in particular—experience when searching for a romantic partner on the internet.
Seattle University professor Christina Roberts believes this response is born from a desire to rationalize violence. It’s a type of victim blaming, she said, driven by patterns of dominance, coercion and force.
“The person was either crazy or the victim did something wrong,” Roberts said. “It’s an unsettling dynamic.”
This frame of mind, Roberts added, leads criticism away from the murderer and directs it to the victim, where it could remain and haunt the victim’s reputation with the notion that the person was responsible for their own death.
“It’s a fiction that people tell themselves that if you do these things, you’ll be safe,” Roberts said, speaking of the many steps Lyne took before going on a date with Charlton, the alleged killer. “That’s not true.”
History professor Theresa Earenfight was exercising at a gym on 21st and Union around the same time Lyne’s body was discovered. While she was exercising, Earenfight heard and saw helicopters fly overhead and police units on the ground unrolling caution tape and inspecting dumpsters.
“It’s so close by,” Earenfight said. “Talk about bringing it home.”
Coupled with a fear of online dating, Lyne’s murder has led some in the Seattle U community to think that our neighborhood’s safety is compromised. Her body was discovered less than a mile from campus, which would explain why this tragedy sits so heavily in the minds and hearts of the citizens of the Seattle U community, as well as in Capitol Hill and the greater Seattle area.
“It does unnerve people,” said Craig Birklid, Associate Director for Support Operations in the Department of Public Safety. “We encounter strangers all the time and we don’t typically get the impression that the person we’re talking to is capable of murder.”
People, Earenfight said, are just as dangerous at the grocery store as they are online.
“That’s an easy dodge,” she said. “Lots of people date on the internet and nothing happens.”
Most of the media coverage surrounding Lyne’s murder has been limited to facts, evidence, and details of the ongoing investigation. Internet users, on the other hand, have initiated a deeper reflection on what happened.
Last Thursday Tasha Walston published a post titled “Ingrid Lyne’s Murder is Every Woman’s Worst Fear” on her blog “Hellish Rebuke.” In it, she wrote about how women avoid rape and murder on a daily basis, sometimes without thinking about it.
“It begins when we wake up,” she wrote. “It continues as we walk out the door…as we weigh the risks of looking at a screen while we walk, have 911 on speed dial, square our shoulders and walk with the ‘right’ posture, avoid certain routes, shield ourselves from strangers on public transport, screen potential dates, not reject street harassment too rudely, and so much more.”
Many are shocked that such a crime took place in the Central District. The neighborhood is a calm residential area inhabited primarily by single families with children. In a place where bicycles, soccer balls and other kid’s toys overflow onto the sidewalk, the discovery of a dismembered body was like a lightning strike on a clear day.
“The actual safety of the neighborhood, I think, isn’t impacted.” Birklid said. “We can’t go through our lives with fear, but we can go through it with our eyes open.”
Whatever the case, kind thoughts are being sent to the friends and family of Ingrid Lyne, and especially her three daughters. A web page created by a family friend on gofundme.com has accrued more than $215,000, generated mostly through anonymous contributions from more than 4,200 donors.
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