Closing arguments are scheduled Monday in the trial of a convicted felon accused of gunning down a youth basketball coach in Menifee for reasons that remain unclear.
Othelon Dale Lyons of Los Angeles is charged with first-degree murder and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait for allegedly killing 38-year-old Claudell Garland Walter in June 2019. Lyons could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Trial testimony ended Monday, with the defense resting, and closing statements were slated to go forward Tuesday, but Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer decided that with Christmas only a few days away, it would be better to reschedule final arguments to next week for a fresh start.
Lyons remains held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Lyons was allegedly a drug trafficker and may have mistakenly targeted Walter, described by the defendant in jail conversations as a thief who stole supplies.
“Claudell Walter was a well-respected local youth basketball coach,” according to a trial brief filed Deputy District Attorney Marcus Garrett. “He frequently traveled to youth basketball tournaments throughout Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. His friends and family deny any knowledge of Claudell being involved in any illegal activity of any kind.”
According to the prosecution, in May 2019, Lyons began a surveillance of the victim, even attaching a GPS tracking device to the underside of Walter’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The device provided real-time information on the victim’s movements, fed to the defendant’s mobile phone, Garrett alleged.
For five days, Lyons allegedly monitored Walter’s travels, and on the night of June 1, 2019, he allegedly drove to the victim’s residence in the 29000 block of Light Sails Court, just east of Menifee Road, and waited for Walter to return from a basketball tournament in Garden Grove.
The victim and his 13-year-old son arrived home at about 10 p.m.
“Neighboring video surveillance depicted a man walk southbound across Light Sails Court, enter Claudell’s driveway, and hide behind the bed of Claudell’s Chevy,” Garrett wrote. “Immediately after Claudell opened his truck door, the man quickly sprang from his concealed location, shot Claudell twice in the chest (with a 9mm pistol) and ran northbound in the opposite direction.”
The victim’s son bolted inside the house and called 911. Walter was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died a short time later.
Detectives were able to garner evidence from a security surveillance video camera, including the Ford Explorer that the defendant allegedly fled in, according to the prosecution.
However, the investigation spanned six months before detectives procured sufficient evidence to identify the defendant as the alleged shooter, leading to his arrest at the end of December 2019.
Investigators then collected audio-visual material from inside the Byrd Detention Center, in which Lyons allegedly had multiple conversations with several inmates, according to the brief.
The defendant incriminated himself with alleged references to removing fingerprints from the ammunition and the phone that he used to monitor the GPS device attached to the victim’s pickup, though he never directly implicated himself in the killing, according to the prosecution.
When fellow inmates asked about a motive, Lyons replied, “He took some (expletive). He took a lot of it, dude,” according to the brief.
Court papers allege Lyons trafficked cocaine in Los Angeles. In June 2018, he was allegedly involved in the sale of 1,000 kilograms of cocaine, but the transaction was initiated by a federal informant, resulting in the defendant and others being arrested by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, according to the brief.
That case was not disposed when the Menifee killing occurred.
Lyons has a prior conviction in Kern County for spousal abuse, according to court records.