Connection in slayings a mystery



Yana Schenker was an immigrant who fled Czechoslovakia with her parents in 1948 to escape the impending Communist takeover.

An accomplished figure skater and golfer, the 75-year-old settled in Aiken seven years ago because it offered an affordable place for her to live alongside her beloved horse, according to her son, Billy, who lives in California.

Shalamar Nicole Byrd had no children and she was in a Georgia prison from 2006 to 2008 for burglary and robbery.

Neighbors along Augusta's Bream Avenue, where the 38-year-old Byrd was known to stay, said cops would sometimes stop Byrd and check her for drugs.

"She was a street person, but she was a good person," said her brother, Robert Byrd of Hephzibah.

Why the two women with no known connection were asphyxiated and their bodies set on fire several miles apart in Aiken about 9 p.m. Aug. 11 remains a mystery. A ring belonging to Schenker was found with Byrd.

Authorities were quickly able to identify the body of Schenker, found in a room over her garage where a fire had been set.

Byrd, whose badly burned body was found in a patch of woods, wasn't identified until Saturday.

Robert Byrd said his sister's body will be cremated. "She was real pretty, and she got burned up," he said.

Authorities believe the same person or people killed both women and set the fires to destroy evidence.

Billy Schenker said he doesn't think his mother would have voluntarily associated with Byrd, but that "if she did, she wouldn't be judgmental."

Despite help from Billy Schenker and Robert Byrd, Aiken County law enforcement has no suspects, according to spokesman Capt. Troy Elwell of the sheriff's office.

"We don't have anybody. We don't even have a person of interest at this point," Elwell said Sunday.

But the identification of Shalamar Byrd is expected to help the case, he said.

Authorities aren't sure whether anything was stolen from Schenker's house; nor are they confident where the murders took place, Elwell said.

The experience has changed Billy Schenker's mind about the death penalty, he said. "I do care that whoever did this is brought to justice," Schenker said.

Robert Byrd wants justice served for his sister.

He doesn't think his sister was involved in a crime at Schenker's house but found herself at the scene of something one of her "johns" might have done.

Anyone with information about the case can contact the Aiken County Sheriff's Office at (803) 642-1741.