Jurors weighing the fate of a convicted felon accused of gunning down a youth basketball coach in Menifee because he believed the man had stolen drugs from him ended their first full day of deliberations without reaching a verdict, pushing deliberations into the New Year.

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 over a week ago at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, and the prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer sent the jury behind closed doors to weigh evidence.

During deliberations Thursday, the panel sent three questions to Freer, though the contents were not disclosed by the court.

Because New Year’s Eve is a court holiday, proceedings were suspended for Friday, and the judge ordered jurors to return to the courthouse Monday morning.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant was an alleged drug trafficker and targeted Walter because he believed the victim was 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.”

It was unclear whether the defendant and victim had ever met.

According to the prosecution, in May 2019, Lyons began a surveillance of Walter, attaching a GPS tracking device to the underside of the man’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The beacon 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 drove to the victim’s house 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 about 10 p.m. Garrett alleged that Lyons was waiting, and the moment the victim prepared to step out of his pickup, the defendant “sprang from his concealed location and shot Claudell twice in the chest” with a 9mm pistol, then fled.

The victim’s son was not hurt. Walter was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died a short time later.

Detectives were able to obtain images from a security surveillance video camera, capturing the Ford Explorer the defendant allegedly was driving, according to the prosecution. However, the investigation took six months before detectives procured sufficient evidence to identify the defendant as the alleged shooter, culminating in his arrest.

Investigators then collected video and audio recordings from the Byrd Detention Center, in which Lyons allegedly had multiple conversations with fellow 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 the other 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, and he was arrested in a case handled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2018, but that matter was not disposed when the Menifee killing occurred, according to the prosecution.

Lyons, who is being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center, has a prior conviction in Kern County for spousal abuse, court records show.

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