In February of 2013, New Yorkers were horrified to discover the dismembered remains of a woman scattered in garbage bags across multiple locations in the Bronx. The first set of remains were discovered by a dog walker whose dog was attracted to the scent of “meat” emanating from one of the bags. When the dog’s owner went to investigate, he came across the dismembered remains and immediately called police.1
The dismembered body would be identified as 45-year-old Tanya Byrd, a home health aide. She had been dismembered and then stuffed inside heavy-duty garbage bags which had then been stuffed inside duffel bags and dumped in a number of locations in the Bronx. One contained an arm and a leg, another contained a portion of torso and shoulders while the final contained a head. Her autopsy would conclude that she had been stabbed in the neck.
Shortly after the grisly discovery, the victim’s 23-year-old son, Bahsid McClean, would be arrested and charged with the murder of his mother. He would appear in court for his arraignment wearing a garbage bag. According to his defence attorney, he had been urinating on himself and had no other clothing. He said that his client was off his medication, however he didn’t elaborate on what that medication was, and was going to be undergoing a psychiatric evaluation. In court, Bahsid professed his innocence, shouting: “I didn’t do anything wrong! I don’t need anything at all!”2
According to the criminal complaint, Bahsid had stabbed his mother to death and then cut up her body with the assistance of another man.3 This second man would be identified as Bahsid’s friend, 26-year-old William Harris. He too was arrested on charges of unlawfully dissecting a human body and hindering prosecution.
According to those who knew the family, Bahsid was a very troubled man who had been harbouring anger towards his mother for quite some time. His grandfather, James McLean said that his son often did destructive things, such as setting fires, and that they had trouble controlling him. Tanya herself was terrified of her own son; he was on probation after attacking two police officers with a knife back in 2010. She also suspected that he was harming his seven-year-old brother, Nasyr, who had down syndrome.
Tanya was described as an extremely upbeat and generous woman, with her friend Elizabeth Cruz stating: “Anything you would have needed, she would have given it to you.”4 Her sister, Cassandra McLean, would say: “I want people to know my sister was a good mother. She always took care of him.”5
Following Bahsid’s arrest, it would be revealed that he had claimed that William was the one to kill his mother, alleging that he had threatened his life and the life of his younger brother if he didn’t help to dispose of her body. He admitted that he had taken part in the dismemberment, revealing he had drained his mother’s blood in the bathtub of their apartment and then dismembered her.
However, William would state to police that Bahsid had shown him photographs on his mobile phone of Tanya’s body. Bahsid’s mobile phone would be examined and police would find an extremely disturbing photograph. It as a photograph of Bahsid posing with his mother’s decapitated head.6
A search warrant for the apartment that Bahsid shared with his mother and his younger brother. Inside, police would find that the apartment had been scrubbed clean with bleach and the shower curtain was missing from the bathroom. They also found a saw, latex gloves, and a shopping cart which was believed to transport Tanya’s dismembered remains to various locations within the city.
A police source would disclose a potential motivation to the brutal murder, stating that Tanya had essentially told Bahsid to grow up and move out of her apartment. He said: “He and another guy are blaming each other. He’s constantly changing his story as we find more physical evidence. There’s no question he did it.”7
Bahsid would be ordered to stand trial for the murder of his mother. Defence attorney, Lynn Calvacca, would be putting forward the theory that her client was legally insane at the time of the murder. During opening statements, she held up a photograph of the selfie that Bahsid had taken with his mother’s decapitated head. “Does this look like someone who knows what he is doing is wrong?” she questioned. She said that Bahsid had been hearing voices since he was just ten-years-old and had been moved through psychiatric hospitals throughout his life.
The prosecution, however, would refute this and refer to Bahsid as “cold-blooded.” Assistant District Attorney Aaron Kaplan stated that Bahsid had stabbed Tanya in the beck after she told him that he was a lousy father. He then went to a local hardware store, purchased a 2-foot power saw, and then dismembered his mother’s body. Bahsid and Tanya’s family supported the prosecution with Tanya’s sister stating: “If he could do that to his own mother, imagine what he could do to a stranger. I don’t hate him. I pity him.”8
On the first day of trial, the prosecution would present four witnesses. The first to testify would be James Daniels who had stumbled across part of Tanya’s body as he was walking his dog. He told the court room he had been walking along Eagle Ave. and E. 158th St. when his dog started barking and pulling him towards a suitcase that was on the sidewalk. Curious, he opened the suitcase up and found a portion of Tanya’s body. He ran around the corner and immediately called 911.
Officer Donald Sehl, who was the first on the scene, testified that he opened up the suitcase, which smelled strongly of cleaning products, and found Tanya’s severed head. Later that morning, Officer Sehl was one of the officers to respond to Bahsid’s missing person report. He had called police to report his mother missing. Upon entering the apartment, Officer Sehl immediately noticed that it smelled the same as the ominous suitcase. He asked Bahsid to provide a photograph of his mother and he turned his mobile phone away from him as he searched for a photograph of Tanya. It was this mobile phone that the graphic photographs would later be found on.9
A video of an interview between police and Bahsid would be played out during the murder trial. Bahsid calmly described dismembering his mother’s body before stating: “If you can kill somebody, you should be able to cut them up too. If you can’t do that, if you don’t have the stomach to cut them up, then you’re a coward.”10
Bahsid McLean would be found guilty of the murder of Tanya Byrd. He was convicted of second-degree murder and unlawful dissection of a human being. He was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison. After Bahsid was transported to the West Facility on Rikers Island to be transported to prison, he punched a jail officer and then slashed his face with a shiv.11
- New York Examiner, 26 February, 2013 – “Dead Woman’s Dismembered Body Found in Trash Bags Strewn About Bronx”
- New York Daily News, 1 March, 2013 – “Mom to Go”
- NY Dismemberment Defendant Dons Trash Bag in Court”
- Associated Press, 27 February, 2013 – “Son, 2nd Person Arrested in NYC Dismemberment Case”
- New York Daily News, 27 February, 2013 – “Maniac Chops up Mom”
- Metro – Boston, 27 February, 2013 – “Son Photographed Posting with Mom’s Severed Head”
- New York Post, 27 February, 2013 – “A Bronx Tale of ‘I Dismember Mama’”
- New York Daily News, 14 October, 2016 – “Is Killer Cruel or Crazy?”
- Legal Monitor Worldwide, 17 October, 2016 – “Selfie with Severed Head Accused Bronx Man was Mentally Ill”
- New York Daily News, 27 October, 2016 – “Only a ‘Coward’ Can’t Cut Body”
- New York Daily News, 16 December, 2016 – “Mom-Slay Susp Knifes Jail Guard”