A Murrieta jury reconvened Monday to deliberate 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.
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, who is being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta, could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Testimony ended the week of Christmas at the Southwest Justice Center, and the prosecution and defense completed closing statements Wednesday, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer sent the jury behind closed doors.
During deliberations Thursday, the panel sent three questions to Freer, but the contents were not disclosed. Friday was a court holiday. The panel is expected to remain in deliberations until 4 p.m. Monday.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant was a reputed drug trafficker and targeted Walter because he believed the victim, who also worked as a truck driver, had stolen supplies.
“Claudell Walter was a well-respected local youth basketball coach,” according to a trial brief filed Deputy District Attorney Marcus Garrett. “His friends and family deny any knowledge of him 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.
On the night of June 1, 2019, Lyons 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, according to Garrett.
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 stepped out of his pickup, the defendant “sprang from his concealed location and shot Claudell twice in the chest” with a 9 mm pistol, then fled.
The victim’s son was not hurt. Walter died a short time later at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.
Detectives were able to obtain images from a security surveillance video camera, capturing the Ford Explorer that 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.
The defendant has a prior conviction in Kern County for spousal abuse, court records show.