Jury deliberations start in trial of felon accused of slaying coach in Menifee

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MURRIETA – Jury deliberations got underway today in the trial of a convicted felon accused of gunning down a youth basketball coach in Menifee for reasons that remain speculative.
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 statements Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, after which Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer sent jurors behind closed doors to weigh the evidence.
Lyons is being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant was an alleged 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 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, prosecutors say 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 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 obtain images from a security camera that captured video of a Ford Explorer that the defendant was allegedly driving, according to the prosecution. However, the investigation took six months before detectives determined they had 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 that allegedly capture Lyons in multiple conversations with fellow inmates, according to the brief.
Prosecutors allege the defendant incriminated himself with 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.
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 case was not yet closed when the Menifee killing occurred, according to the prosecution.
Lyons has a prior conviction in Kern County for spousal abuse, court records show.
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