Huffpost Crime

Man Killed While Hanging Holiday Lights Was Planning 'Winter Wonderland' Proposal

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MAN KILLED HANGING HOLIDAY LIGHTS
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She bent in the rain, turning the dial, but the Christmas lights wouldn't come on.

Lindsay Schrama doesn't know how to adjust the timer. These lights begin each night in her yard among the candy canes, the inflatable elves -- and the footprint in the mud: his last step.

It's where her 34-year-old south county neighbor was killed hanging Christmas lights last week.

Jason Byrnes was raising an extension ladder and hit the power line above her home in North Beach.

He was building a "winter wonderland," he told friends, for two women in his life: his 4-year-old daughter, Lilly, and the girlfriend he wanted to marry.

He planned to propose beneath those lights.

"He kept telling us, 'They're going to see these lights from Mars,'" Schrama said.

Byrnes asked to decorate Schrama's home since it sits on Walnut Avenue where the cars pass. He rented a house farther from the road, but wanted passing motorists to see these lights.

Of course, Schrama told him.

Byrnes came to the neighborhood in spring to fish the Chesapeake; to walk his terrier, Jack, along its shores; and, later, to teach ninja moves to Schrama's two young boys.

Schrama taught Byrnes yoga.

He taught her boys to fish.

A mechanic, Byrnes worked in Hanover for Liebherr Equipment Source, which rents construction equipment. Lilly lives with his ex-wife in Texas.

In the fall, Byrnes met Lauren Billodeaux of Virginia's Northern Neck. They hiked together. They fished together. About a month later, he put a diamond ring on layaway.

"I admit I told him, I thought he was rushing it," said Jimmy DeToto, Byrnes' neighbor.

After his death, friends told Billodeaux about his planned proposal.

"He was full-throttle," she said. "He didn't know how to halfway love."

She would have said "yes."

As a father, Byrnes followed Lilly down playground slides. He sometimes served cupcakes for breakfast. Once, at the zoo, Lilly's face was painted like a butterfly.

His was painted like a tiger.

And he built her a "winter wonderland."

He strung lights beside the inflatable elves, around the backyard playhouse. He wrapped lights around that tree. Three, maybe four times, he restrung that tree.

Beneath it, he planned to propose.

Then, on Monday, Dec. 16, he decided to make some adjustments.

Lilly had arrived to spend the holidays with him. Byrnes brought a ladder over Schrama's house while their children played together.

They didn't see him die.

Schrama tried CPR. She kept the children in the backyard. Then she brought Lilly to a neighbor's house when ambulances came.

That night, Lilly slept with her children, until her mother and Byrnes' parents arrived the next day.

Schrama told Lilly her father was with the doctor.

Still, she kept asking, "Where's daddy?"

"You're not going to make sense of this. There is no sense. It was a freak accident," Schrama said.

"What he wanted in life was someone to love him unconditionally. He had his daughter here. He was going to be married -- he found it."

After the accident, Schrama and her husband considered unplugging the lights.

She still doesn't know how to adjust the timer.

In the end, they left them.

At dusk, lights turn on; at sunrise, lights turn off.

She says it's beautiful.

She says it's Jason. ___