The second week of the Corey Lyons trial ― in which he stands accused of shooting and killing his brother Daniel Lyons and Daniel’s life partner, Barbara Scharton, in their home on May 4, 2009 ― saw neighbors and a “lifelong friend” testify.
Corey Lyons is charged with murdering the couple for financial gain, and prosecutor Gordon Auchincloss is trying to prove that Corey had a lot to lose in a civil suit over a poorly constructed house that Corey, a contractor, built for his brother. The suit would have “wiped him out” financially, witnesses said, causing him to lose his contracting license. Lyons potentially faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
Scott Gordon, the next-door neighbor of Daniel Lyons and Scharton, took the stand last Thursday, recounting the morning of the murder which began with the gun shots he heard at 1:28 a.m. Gordon made two of the three 911 phone calls placed that night, and police set up a command post in his home upon arriving about 20 minutes later.
Gordon spent most of that morning confused about what had happened, along with Dennis Boneck, a lifelong friend of Dan Lyons. Gordon and Boneck remained in the dark until about 11 a.m. as they sat across the street from the crime scene, until they heard police say that “they found two bodies.” At that point “Dennis began to break down … he was pretty upset,” said Gordon.
Also testifying on Thursday was Alison Oshinsky, who lived across the street from Dan Lyons and Barbara Scharton. Oshinksy spoke of how Scharton warned her and her husband to call the police if Corey Lyons ever made an appearance near their residence. In a conversation with Scharton a few days before the murders, Oshinsky claimed that Scharton’s body became tense at the mention of Corey Lyons’s name.
Christine Adams, Scharton’s sister, also testified. Defense attorney Robert Sanger questioned Adams about her sister’s career as a deputy district attorney in Fresno, with the intention of showing that Scharton, as a criminal prosecutor, could have made enemies in her former occupation.
Auchincloss later questioned Adams. She testified she was unaware of anyone who would want to kill her sister and Dan Lyons.
Last to testify on Thursday and continuing Friday morning was Dennis Boneck’s wife, Sandy Boneck. Sandy testified that a couple weeks before the murders, Corey Lyons called her about the lawsuit Daniel brought against him, hoping that she would intervene. She ignored his request, feeling it was better to stay out of their affairs.
Sandy Boneck discussed her relationship with Dan Lyons and Barbara Scharton. “We were their closest friends,” she said. “We were as close as ever,” referring to herself specifically, whereas “Dennis was always close with Dan … it was like a brotherly bond.” Dan would frequently say he loved Dennis and Sandy, and they were “like part of [his] family,” Boneck said. Sanger suggested that there might have been a “romantic relationship” between Sandy Boneck and Dan Lyons, to which she responded, “No, he was like an uncle to my boys and like a brother to me.”
Last to testify was Dennis Boneck. He said he had known Dan since 1971 when they went to San Marcos High School, and although Dan was two years older than him, Dennis got to know him better at Santa Barbara City College, getting even closer once they both transferred to Chico State University. The two maintained their friendship into adulthood: “We did a lot of things together … biking, hiking, climbing mountains ― we were best friends,” said Boneck.
When asked about Barbara Scharton, Boneck said he had known her for about “15 years, maybe 20 … they were together the whole time.” Boneck used the words “perfect, good, great” to describe the couple’s relationship.
Auchincloss asked Dennis if he knew why Dan and Barbara slept in different beds. Dennis said he thought it was because Dan went to bed early and woke up early, and didn’t want to disturb Scharton. Besides that, Dennis said, they “both snored really loud.”
Boneck told the court he knew Corey as long as he knew Dan. “I knew Corey, Corey knew me. We were polite; that was the extent of it,” said Boneck. When the Lyons brothers were young, “The family wasn’t a tight family structure,” said Bonneck, and Corey and Dan, being four years apart, were distanced. Boneck guessed that throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s “they didn’t have a relationship,” but they got a little closer once Dan bought the property on Aurora Avenue.
However, Boneck noticed a change in the brothers’ relationship about a year into the project, which was “going very slow,” he said. Boneck was aware of water-leaking issues in the house “on several occasions.” Boneck gave a long list of where he personally observed leaks: “leaks in the kitchen, bathroom, leaking underneath the big sliding glass doors, leaks under the inside and outside stairwell … when it rained, it leaked,” he concluded.
When the leaking continued into April 2009, Barbara and Dan were in the midst of the lawsuit against Corey Lyons. Boneck claimed that “Dan agonized over the whole thing; he did not want to sue his brother.”
Boneck said Corey Lyons called him about two weeks before the murder, explaining what was going on in the lawsuit and asking for his help. “This will wipe me out; this will destroy me,” Corey purportedly told Boneck. Corey was “frazzled, he sounded desperate,” said Boneck, but Boneck said he “wasn’t going to get between the brothers.”
Boneck revealed that Scott Gordon and Dan Lyons “didn’t socialize together … They weren’t friendly, but they were polite,” said Boneck. This was partially due to that fact that as the house was being constructed, Dan Lyons’ three-story home blocked Gordon’s view of the ocean, said Boneck.
Sanger then suggested that at some point Dan Lyons “stopped having a good relationship with his father,” to which Boneck agreed. Also, as Boneck had told Auchincloss, the Lyons brothers didn’t have any correspondence until 2005 when he bought the property in Santa Barbara.
The couple were hoping to build the home as inexpensively as possible, suggested Sanger, and “Dan and Barbara were pretty frugal,” Boneck acknowledged. They tried to save money where they could, he continued. Corey Lyons said he would build the house a lot cheaper than other contractors, and that “the other contractors would rip you off,” Corey supposedly said to Dan sometime prior to the construction.
The testimony ultimately lent support to the theory mentioned earlier on in the trial, that Dan Lyons knowingly had Corey Lyons underreport payroll and leave worker’s compensation unreported, both of which are crimes. Sanger suggested Dan Lyons was trying to save money and take advantage of his brother. However, Boneck also mentioned that the Lyons’s mother had a lot to do with Corey being chosen for the job.
All of Sanger’s questioning last week centered around the idea that Dan Lyons and Barbara Scharton might have had more enemies than their friends and family might have realized, and that their lawsuit against Corey Lyons was another example of how they treated people.
The trial continues again today, March 14.