LIVINGSTON — A jury has cleared Park County sheriff's deputies of wrongdoing after they fatally shot an 81-year-old Greek immigrant whose obsession with a young genius had led him to try to kill the girl's mother.
Thomas Kyros was killed on Jan. 17 during a standoff with officers responding to a report that Kyros had shot Georgia Smith, the mother of Promethea Pythaitha, who at age 13 became the youngest person to graduate from Montana State University.
An inquest is required when someone is killed by a law enforcement officer. Park County jurors on Tuesday took about 10 minutes to clear the deputies following testimony that provided the most detailed account yet of the months leading up to the shootout that left Kyros dead and Smith partially paralyzed.
Pythaitha was 19 at the time of the shooting. She had learned calculus at age 7 and graduated from Montana State in 2005. She gained notoriety in the Greek community two years later when she received a $10,000 PanHellenic scholarship and used the awards dinner in Chicago to call for an end to the Orthodox church's censorship in society and dogma in Greek schools.
Kyros, who was retired and had lived in New Port Richey, Fla., first contacted Pythaitha and Smith after the mother and daughter were involved in a 2007 car accident. Kyros was one of many in a ''Greek-American subculture,'' as Pythaitha said, who stepped forward with financial assistance after the accident.
''He wanted me to address him as a grandfather,'' Pythaitha said. ''I just thought he was eccentric . a nice, old man who wanted to help out.''
They accepted $9,000 from him, but then he began badgering them, officials said. Kyros insisted Pythaitha leave home and attend an Ivy League college because he believed Montana State wasn't good enough for her.
''He felt her mother was keeping Promethea in a concentration camp,'' testified Park County sheriff's Sgt. Clay Herbst, one of the deputies who shot Kyros.
Pythaitha asked him by email to stop harassing her, but Kyros decided it was her mother who wrote the messages and accused Smith of brainwashing the girl.
Smith's attorney eventually sent Kyros a letter asking him to stop contacting them.
But on Jan. 12, the day Pythaitha appeared at the Livingston city-county building as a witness for a civil trial, Kyros showed up and introduced himself to her.
Herbst and Park County sheriff's Lt. Tom Totland then served Kyros a no-stalking order. Five days later, when deputies were called to a shooting, Totland said he suspected that Kyros was involved.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle has reported that Smith, 56 at the time of the shooting, walked out to the driveway to talk to Kyros when he appeared at their home that afternoon. She told the newspaper that Kyros didn't say a word, but fired his pistol at her from a few feet away.
The bullet hit her in the neck and she fell to the ground, after which Kyros shot her at least two more times. Pythaitha called 911.
Kyros tossed Pythaitha a blue satchel with $720 cash and a document naming her as the beneficiary of a trust fund, then got into his pickup truck, Pythaitha said.
The document said the fund would pay up to $50,000 annually for tuition to one of 10 specified colleges. And in bold: ''In no event shall the trustee provide for any educational costs relating to Promethea's attending any University, College, Program or other schooling in the State of Montana, while her mother, Georgia A. Smith is living.''
''He said he wanted me to start my life over with the contents,'' Pythaitha said.
Deputies arrived and ordered Kyros out of the truck, approaching the vehicle with rifles drawn, dashboard video taken from a patrol car showed.
They saw a pistol in Kyros' hand, his finger on the trigger, the deputies said.
Herbst said he smashed a window in the truck to scare Kyros into dropping the gun.
Kyros turned around ''and pointed the gun directly at me,'' Herbst said. ''I looked right down the end of the barrel. I thought he was going to shoot me.''
Totland opened fire first. Kyros was shot multiple times.
''I didn't believe he was ever going to surrender,'' said Totland, who sustained an injury in the gunfight. ''I thought it was going to go bad.''
In Kyros' Bozeman hotel room, investigators with the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation found notes taped to mirrors including ''pappoulis,'' or grandfather, written in Greek. That was the moniker he asked Pythaitha to use when addressing him, the testified.
A calendar taped to another mirror had the word ''trial'' written on Jan. 12, the day he confronted the girl at the Livingston courthouse.
In the nightstand, detectives found Kyros' travel itinerary that showing he had flown to Bozeman months earlier, on Oct. 28. They found no return ticket in the room.
The shooting paralyzed one of Smith's arms, left her with bullet wounds in both legs and doctors had to remove a third of her lower intestine. The Greek born artist had worked housekeeping and odd jobs, but now can't work and has lost 30 pounds.
Pythaitha is still listed as a student at Montana State, where she has studied computer science, physics, math and other subjects.