Iryn Meyers sentenced to 23 years to life for murder of David O'Dell
BATH — Wednesday morning, Phil O’Dell walked down the Steuben County courthouse steps he had climbed so often over the past year. Surrounded on all sides by family members, the eldest O’Dell sibling stepped onto the pavement, paused and sighed.
Moments earlier in the third-floor courtroom of soon-to-be retired Judge Joseph W. Latham, Iryn Meyers was sentenced to spend 23 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Phil O’Dell’s brother, David N. O’Dell. The maximum sentence she faced was 25 years to life.
By all indications, it was a sigh of satisfaction. After all, a family nightmare — the murder of the youngest brother — had just reached a conclusion, at least for now.
Then Phil O’Dell spoke, and any doubts about how he was feeling were removed.
“We are very satisfied,” said O’Dell, the eldest brother of David, a 60-year-old who was a quiet but popular neighborhood resident on New Galen Road in Wayland until he was murdered — burned alive in his own home for a potential $170,000 in insurance proceeds, prosecutors said — by Joseph and Iryn Meyers on Feb. 15, 2016.
During seven days of testimony in the Iryn Meyers trial, a county jury heard from more than three dozen witnesses and was presented with more than 100 exhibits and viewed multiple hours of video surveillance footage.
The couple was seen unloading Iryn Meyers’ property from vehicles, presumably after her belongings had been packed up and removed from the New Galen Road house where Iryn had previously lived. In the early hours of the State Police investigation into the fire, the couple initially denied visiting the New Galen Road house in the hours just prior to the fire.
Experts differed over the cause of what was termed a “black hole” fire. With little of the structure remaining for examination, a county fire investigator said the cause was undetermined. A state fire investigator using more sophisticated equipment reported that the fire was intentionally set, with the use of an accelerant.
Video surveillance from Joseph Meyers’ residence/business, Loon Lake Services, showed several trips to and from the Loon Lake property on the frigid February night, one of the coldest of the year. One video appeared to show Iryn Meyers carrying a propane lighter back into the Loon Lake residence.
While Iryn Meyers did not testify at her trial, in statements she made to investigators she implicated Joseph Meyers in setting the fire and admitted her own involvement in the plot. Those statements were introduced at the trial.
Joseph Meyers was convicted of first-degree murder last May and was sentenced in the same county courtroom in June. Joseph Meyers also received a 23 years to life prison sentence, plus a series of concurrent terms for arson, conspiracy, insurance fraud and lying to police.
Wednesday it was Iryn Meyers’ turn to learn her fate following her conviction in August for murder, two counts of first-degree arson, insurance fraud and attempted insurance fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records.
Latham, who called O’Dell’s murder a “tragic situation” that involved a “blameless victim,” imposed 20 years to life sentences on both arson convictions, but he ordered those sentences, as well as the prison terms on the lesser counts, to run concurrently with the 23 years to life for murder. Latham imposed a $16,000 fine as well.
Prior to sentencing, Latham heard differing accounts of Iryn Meyers’ responsibility for the murder.
Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker called Iryn Meyers “the mover and shaker” in the murder conspiracy.
“She committed arson and murder for no greater reason than she wanted to make some money,” Baker said to Latham. “This is one of the most heinous crimes we have ever dealt with in Steuben County.”
Baker noted that in the months leading to the murder, Iryn Meyers was living in the same residence with David O’Dell, helping to keep the house clean and making sure he took his medicine. Eventually, O’Dell signed over the deed to the house to Iryn Meyers.
“Months and months of planning. She had months to change her mind,” Baker said. “Months to change her actions. All that time she was supposed to be taking care of him.”
Brenda Smith Aston, a defense attorney for Iryn Meyers, pointed out that a pre-sentencing report by the Steuben County Probation Department found Iryn Meyers to be a “low risk” of committing future violence or of recidivism.
But Aston also found fault with the pre-sentence report, saying it was “full of speculation” about how the fire was set and whether Joseph Meyers knocked out O’Dell prior to starting the blaze.
Aston said Iryn Meyers is not driven by a desire for a great deal of money, mentioning she did social work for $13 an hour, sent money to her family in the Philippines, and desired nothing more than to keep a modest and loving home in the United States.
Aston said Iryn Meyers feared her husband, saying he was abusive, both physically and verbally.
“There was domestic violence in the home. (Joe) forced her to do things that were horrible and disgusting when he was drunk,” Aston said.
She asked Latham to impose the “minimum or slightly over the minimum” sentence.
After he announced the sentence, Latham added one final comment.
“David O’Dell didn’t deserve to (die) the way he did,” Latham said.
The sentence came as a relief to the O’Dells.
“We got justice,” Phil O’Dell continued. “We got justice for David. And (Joseph and Iryn) got what they deserved.
“Never in my life did I expect to go through something like this.”
Phil O’Dell said he visits David’s grave at Loon Lake Cemetery every other week. The next time he visits, he said he will “tell” David, “We got justice for you.”