Five different witnesses took the stand on Wednesday in the ongoing double murder trial of Corey Lyons, where he stands accused of killing his brother, Dan Lyons, and his brother’s life partner, Barbara Scharton, in a purported attempt to avoid a civil lawsuit that the couple had filed against him.
The day’s proceedings began with the continued testimony of Dennis Boneck, a good friend of the victims, who was questioned on his knowledge of anyone who he believed might want to cause them harm. Early on the morning of May 4, after the fate of his friends had been confirmed, Boneck said that his first thought was for police to “find Corey,” but he also acknowledged that Scharton’s work as a deputy district attorney in Fresno — where he was told she was “busting pot rings” — might have made her the wrong kind of enemies. On cross-examination it was revealed that Boneck told police “there might be 50 people who want to do her in,” but he later qualified that statement as pure speculation.
Allison Oshinsky, whose family was living across the street from the victims, was the next to take the stand. Her testimony focused on a conversation that she and her husband had with Scharton while standing on the sidewalk in front of their home just weeks before the incident. At one point in what had been a friendly back and forth, Scharton was asked why Corey — who was Dan’s brother and the builder of Scharton’s home — no longer came around. It was then, according to Oshinsky, that the conversation took a strange turn, “Her body language suddenly tensed up” and “All of a sudden it felt as if there was a chill in the air.” Scharton allegedly responded with a request: “If you ever see him here, please call the police.”
Brief testimony was then given by Christine Adams, Barbara Scharton’s sister, in which she recalled a phone conversation in which the two were discussing Scharton’s pending civil suit against Corey Lyons. Scharton allegedly stated a fear that Corey was going to retaliate against her. “He will probably burn the house down,” Scharton reportedly said, to which Adams responded, “But what if you’re in it?” “Then you will know who did it,” said Scharton.
The largest portion of the day’s proceedings was taken up by testimony from the two Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) SWAT team members who led the teams that eventually forced their way into the victims’ home some five hours after the initial calls of shots being fired. In his explanation of why the police took so long to enter, SBPD Sergeant Mitch Jan explained that without an “active shooter,” protocol dictated that they establish a perimeter first, and then gather intelligence through careful observation of the scene while attempting to contact those involved. In situations like these, he explained, officers have to weigh a number of considerations, including their own safety, and the safety of the neighbors, before taking action. It wasn’t until a cough was reportedly heard inside the victims’ home at around 6:25 a.m. that the SWAT team was given the green light to move in.
Once inside the house, the two policemen testified that they found the victims shot to death in separate bedrooms. During this portion of the testimony, the jury was shown graphic pictures depicting the victims as the police had discovered them; naked and bloody, with Dan Lyons laid out on the floor, and Scharton lying on her bed, partially covered by pillows and sheets. After finding the victims and determining that they were indeed deceased, the two teams then proceeded to search the rest of the home. Nothing of note was found, however, and the source of the cough that had precipitated the forced entry went undiscovered.
What role, if any, the unexplained cough might play in Corey Lyons’s defense remains to be seen, though in his opening statement, defense attorney Bob Sanger suggested it could prove that someone was in the house long after Corey Lyons is said to have left.
Thursday morning, jurors saw SBPD crime scene investigator Mike Ullemeyer on the stand, with sometimes gruesome photos on the crime scene being shown. One revealed “substantial damage” to Scharton’s forearm from the shotgun. She was found lying on the bed partially covered, the bed and sheets soaked in blood, her feet dangling off the side. On some sweats next to the bed was what appeared to be a tooth or bone fragment. Another fragment was found nearby.
In the master bedroom, Daniel Lyons was found lying dead on his back, his head near a sliding glass door, one leg propped on a pair of shoes. There appeared to be less blood than where Scharton was found, but still plenty. The prosecution showed a picture of his right hand, which was deformed from a shotgun blast. Glass was all over the floor.
Check back for more reporting on Day 8 of the trial