Lawrence Kaiser’s death was “about being in the right place at the wrong time,” said prosecutor Mary Barron, during her opening statement on October 27, for a trial in which Steven Cisneros stands accused of murdering Kaiser. The two men were roommates at a Lighthouse sober living home on West Haley Street in December 2008 when Cisneros allegedly stabbed Kaiser in the neck with a knife from the home’s kitchen. Cisneros was arrested in Camarillo the next day.
Defense attorney Doug Hayes told a Santa Barbara jury that Cisneros acted out of self-defense, though he didn’t elaborate during his opening statement. Outside the presence of the jury, Hayes indicated he would argue that Kaiser came after Cisneros and that Cisneros stabbed the other man in order to defend himself. Cisneros had received prior threats from the victim, Hayes said, which is why he acted so drastically when the victim approached him that morning. Hayes told the court he didn’t know if the defendant would take the stand.
Kaiser, 45 years old when he died, had only lived at the home for three days when he was killed. The house manager, Donald Chilton, testified that not long after smoking a cigarette with Cisneros, he heard Kaiser yelling from their dorm room. He went into the room to find Kaiser, stabbed in the back of the neck with a 12-inch knife that had pierced through the front of his neck, and Cisneros standing there. He told Cisneros to get out. Kaiser died a little more than 30 minutes later. Cisneros rode his bike to a friend’s home, Barron said, and the friend helped him flee to Ventura County.