Police are asking for the public’s help to identify a man wanted for questioning in the suspicious death of 26-year-old Lyric McHenry.
Lyric, a Los Angeles, California native, was found unconscious and unresponsive at approximately 5:05 a.m. on August 14, 2018, according to a release by the New York City Police Department. Police say Lyric was found lying on a sidewalk in the Bronx neighborhood of New York.
“There were no obvious signs of trauma observed,” the release continued. “EMS responded to the location and transported the aided female to Bronx Lebanon Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased.”
The condition in which Lyric was found starkly contrasts with how she appeared when friends and family saw her just four hours earlier. According to Lyric’s father Doug McHenry, a Hollywood movie director and producer, Lyric had been at Manhattan’s Dream Downtown hotel and nightclub celebrating her 26th birthday with her younger sister, Maya McHenry, and a few friends.
“On the night of August 13th, they went out to celebrate her birthday,” Doug told Dateline. “The very next day, she was supposed to come home.”
Edna Sims, a spokesperson representing the McHenry family, told Dateline that the celebration was going as planned as the clock struck midnight.
“Everybody was just having a wonderful time. Dancing, celebrating, so on and so forth,” Edna said. “Lyric was on the dance floor and, all of a sudden, Maya looked around and said, ‘Where is Lyric?’”
According to the family spokesperson, around 1:00 a.m., someone on the dance floor told Maya that Lyric had gone to the hotel’s entrance to help somebody whom the bouncer wouldn’t let inside.
“That was the last time the people at the party ever saw Lyric. She never came back up,” Edna told Dateline. “[The bouncer] still wouldn’t let the person in, so Lyric went to the car and got in the car.”
Lyric’s friends and family say they never saw the person Lyric got in the car with. Just four hours later, police would find her alone, nearly nine miles away.
It would be a few more hours before Lyric’s father Doug, who lives in Los Angeles, would hear the news.
“It was actually that someone had called me from the press to comment on it. And I hadn’t heard of it. That’s how I found out,” Doug told Dateline. “Obviously, I was in total shock. [It’s] almost being somnambulistic. You’re trying to find things out. You’re making arrangements. You’re getting on the plane. You’re going to New York. You’re confirming that your youngest daughter is OK.”
Doug’s youngest daughter, Maya, who had thrown Lyric the birthday party the night before, was at her Manhattan office when Doug called her.
“And she said, ‘Daddy, I was going to call you because I got a call that the NYPD detectives wanted to see me. And they are on their way to talk to me here at work,’” Doug remembered of their conversation. “She didn’t know what it was about.”
Fortunately, Doug called before the detectives arrived.
“I had to break it to my youngest daughter, because she didn’t know,” he said. “And she just couldn’t believe it and broke down and started crying and kept on saying, ‘Daddy, you mean to tell me Lyric is not going to wake up? She’s not going to wake up?’ And I said, ‘No. I can’t believe it.’”
“But I’m glad that I was able to speak to her and tell her before the detectives arrived. So by the time they arrived, she got some of her composure back,” Doug added. “Obviously, I stayed on the phone -- the speaker phone -- as much as I could to support her through the interview and everything.”
Doug flew to New York the next day. The New York City Police Department had already launched an investigation into Lyric’s death, and Doug said he met with detectives once he got the city.
“When I had the privilege of meeting with them, [the] way they relayed it to me was, ‘We are fathers, too. And this isn’t right,’” Doug told Dateline. “And they connected on such a visceral level with me, that they were dads and they had sons and daughters. And this might have happened to one of theirs. And they were going to get to the bottom of it. And they gave me every confidence.”
Doug told Dateline that police believe Lyric’s body was found under suspicious circumstances.
“She obviously didn’t walk from the nightclub all the way to some desolate place in the Bronx when the nightclub is in Manhattan. Somebody obviously transported her there,” he said.
He continued to say the NYPD has done a “phenomenal” job with their efforts to find out what happened to Lyric.
“They’ve thrown a lot of resources at this. They are doing a great job. I can’t say enough,” Doug told Dateline. “Because finding an African-American woman on the street in the Bronx somewhere -- many people would say, ‘It’s too bad, but we’ve got other things to do.’ But they have responded responsibly and professionally and with a lot of heart.”
The NYPD’s investigation has led them to want to talk to a man who appeared on surveillance footage near where Lyric was found.
“Circumstances have led [police] to conclude that this is a person of high interest to them, which is why they released the video,” Doug told Dateline. “And I have no doubt they will find this guy. And again, I don’t know that he’s the guy that did anything wrong or anything like that. All I know is he hasn’t stepped forward and we’re trying to find him.”
The McHenry family spokesperson told Dateline Lyric was found in a pink slip dress, a gift from her mother, Jennifer.
“It was short, which is why I think the police thought it was a pajama top,” Edna said, adding that the dress is the same dress Lyric wore out to her birthday celebrations the night before.
Since the incident, reports have surfaced saying Lyric was found with a bag of cocaine. But family spokesperson Edna told Dateline that’s not true.
“It wasn’t on her body, but it was laying by her body as if it was placed there,” she said. “It wasn’t a big baggy -- it was more like a pouch.”
Edna told Dateline that Lyric’s toxicology report won’t be ready for a couple of weeks. Preliminary reports from the medical examiner said Lyric’s organs were unharmed and she was not sexually assaulted.
According to Lyric’s father Doug, the preliminary reports also confirmed that Lyric was 15 to 20 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
“I did not know Lyric’s condition and nor did anyone else up until it was confirmed by the medical examiner,” Doug told Dateline. Family believes Lyric, herself, was also unaware of her pregnancy as she was not physically showing, had not told her closest confidants, and had not altered her routine or lifestyle in any way.
Doug says he was not aware of Lyric having a boyfriend, and does not know who fathered Lyric’s unborn child. But right now, that’s not his main priority.
“I haven’t really focused on that issue because obviously she passed away, so I don’t know who it is,” he told Dateline. “My super priority is to find out who mistreated my daughter and left her out on a barren sidewalk without a chance to survive — like she was nothing. And the most important priority for me, is to make sure our family and friends love each other enough to work through this and walk out healthy on the other side and to use these events to be better.”
Doug says he and his family plan to set up a scholarship in Lyric’s name to help young people get their start in the media business. Lyric, a Stanford University graduate, was a producer whose passion for internet content focused on social justice issues, her father told Dateline.
“Whether it supports them in screenwriting, acting or their media endeavors, I know that [Lyric] would very much want to help others along their own path,” Doug said. “Sometimes it’s not a lot of money. Sometimes it’s just enough to make something that’s seemingly impossible, possible. To make that dream somehow viable. Maybe you wouldn’t have taken that step, but now someone has demonstrated that they have faith in you, so you’ll take a shot on yourself. And that’s what we want to do.”
Doug says the family is thinking about calling the scholarship “Lyric’s Jam.”
Since her untimely death, Doug told Dateline he has been able to connect with many of Lyric’s peers who shared her passion for media production, collaboration and social justice. Lyric’s friends asked Doug to speak at a gathering in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“So many of these people were either second generation — or even third generation — show business, as well as people who weren’t, who just had a real talent and wanted to be in the media business,” Doug said of the people with whom Lyric surrounded herself. “And the fact that [Lyric] didn’t look upon that as competition, but she looked upon that as support, and she’s provided leadership for them and they all helped each other break into the business and climb up the ladder and change it... It’s so astonishing to me that she’s in the forefront in this movement. I was so gratified that she had garnered so much respect and affection from her peers.”
Doug, a movie director and producer himself, told Dateline how proud he is of the woman and producer Lyric was.
“People just saw so much promise in her. And then to have her cut off at the stalk like this — before she could really bloom -- I think it moves everyone,” he said. “There was a real life there. There was a person there. There was someone, although they were fairly young, who had touched many lives and they had their own accomplishments.”
Doug added that Lyric was in the process of applying to business school. A statement released by the McHenry family says Lyric also volunteered for the Obama Campaign in 2007-2008 and again in 2012, both times working on the L.A. fundraising staff and organizing various campaign events.
“I think, more than anything else, she reaffirmed my faith in young people today. I just think the millennial generation are amazing people,” Doug told Dateline. “People say millennials just stare at the phone and don’t know anything and aren’t social activists, etc. etc. I don’t know where that came from. Because that is not emblematic at all of what I have seen. And I’m sure that Lyric and her friends are not the exception. They are the rule. And if you open your eyes, you will understand that the future of this country is in good shape, if we just get the hell out of the way and let them do their thing. It’s important. That’s my takeaway.”
Lyric McHenry was just 26 years old at the time of her death. According to her family’s statement, Lyric is survived by her father, Doug McHenry, and her mother, Jennifer, a celebrity stylist. She is also survived by her sisters, Maya McHenry and Tiffany Woods. The funeral service will be held in Lyric’s hometown of Los Angeles at a date to be determined.
Anyone with information in regards to the unidentified individual is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
All calls are strictly confidential.