Lawmen shot Florida man obsessed with teenage genius

Man shot by deputies obsessed with genius
2011-01-19T13:45:00Z 2011-07-13T13:11:31Z Lawmen shot Florida man obsessed with teenage geniusGAIL SCHONTZLER Bozeman Daily Chronicle The Billings Gazette
January 19, 2011 1:45 pm  • 

BOZEMAN — Thomas Kyros was an old man with a fatal obsession.

Kyros, 81, died Monday night in a standoff with Park County sheriff's deputies, after shooting the woman who stood between him and the teenage girl he called his adoptive granddaughter — Promethea Pythaitha.

Now 19, Promethea is known in Bozeman for graduating from Montana State University at age 14, the youngest student ever to do so. She is still listed as a student at MSU, where she has studied computer science, physics, math and other subjects.

Kyros, a retired Greek immigrant who lived in Florida, used to call the Bozeman Daily Chronicle making long harangues about Promethea's education and demanding investigative reporting into the activities of her mother, Georgia Smith.

Kyros refused to accept the idea that Promethea was a strong-minded young woman who didn't want anything to do with him.

In a 2009 phone conversation with a reporter, Kyros recalled reading a magazine story a few years earlier about 15-year-old Promethea. At a 2007 scholarship award dinner, she had outraged Greek Orthodox leaders in Chicago by accusing the church of genocide, torture and butchery of pagan Greeks 17 centuries ago.

Kyros said he admired her, decided to help her out and started sending money and books to Montana.

"I am 80 years old, you can call me grandpa," Kyros said he wrote to Promethea.

He said although he wasn't a relative, she had replied by e-mail that she was delighted and had always wanted a grandfather.

"We adopted mentally each other," Kyros said. He told her to call him "pappoulis," little grandfather, and he called her "eggonoula," granddaughter. He claimed to have sent her a total of $17,000.

But after a time the relationship turned sour. His gifts were rejected, his e-mails blocked, his offers to pay her tuition ignored.

Kyros blamed the change on Promethea's mother. He admitted he'd hired an investigator to check up on them, their finances, their near-fatal 2007 car accident, their home by Wineglass Mountain, and their legal battles with neighbors.

He charged Smith had blocked his access to Promethea and ruined her daughter's education by sending her to MSU instead of Harvard or an Ivy League university. He said he might take legal action.

"Promethea is a slave, she's in bondage," Kyros charged in the phone interview. "I want to liberate Promethea."

But in 2009 when the Chronicle profiled Promethea at age 18, it was clear she had own strong ideas and didn't always follow her mother's advice. Her mother, fearing for her daughter's safety, had unsuccessfully tried to talk her out of making the controversial speech in Chicago, for example. And in the 2009 interview, Promethea brought up the name Kyros.

"He kept writing, writing, harassing," Promethea said. "He did not know me from Adam.

"He says I should leave home, move out. He'd come and oversee my life.... He said, 'You're brainwashed, your mother's this, your mother's that.' He called Mr. Nelson, the (MSU) registrar, he started making crazy suppositions. Either the man is disturbed, (or he's) making horrendous slanders and lies."

Although he had not heard from Promethea for two years at that point, Kyros told a reporter he could not forget about her.

Kyros said he had come to America at age 24 and worked for years as an experimental physicist, at Columbia University and for Phillips Laboratories in New York.

Asked if he was obsessed with Promethea, Kyros replied, "She called me grandpa, pappoulis. ... My reply was I'm flattered to be adopted as grandpa by such an eminent, exceptional, intelligent (girl). I promised as long as pappoulis is alive, you're not alone.

"I have three grandchildren," Kyros said. "Promethea is my favorite one because she is an exceptional individual."

He sent the Chronicle what he believed to be proof of his version of reality — copies of canceled checks, and a copy of a television news feature on Promethea, when she was a little girl and recognized as a child genius, who learned calculus at age 7. He had pored over the video, finding details that he believed proved Promethea was afraid of her mother, evidence that others didn't see.

Then, after more than a year's silence, Kyros phoned the Chronicle about a week ago. He left a message saying that Promethea and Smith would be in court and the newspaper should be there to cover it. His message included no threats, no indication he planned to be there himself.

But it was clear that Thomas Kyros could not forget about Promethea.

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