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Lyons Trial Testimony Turns to Alleged Outbursts, 9-1-1 Calls from Neighbors

Witnesses testify about defendant's reaction to being sued by one of the victims in the double-slaying case; neighbors recount hearing shots fired

In the month before Corey Lyons was arrested as the suspect in a Santa Barbara double murder, he had emotional outbursts on several occasions over a dispute he had with one of the victims, court testimony revealed Friday.

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Corey John Lyons

Lyons, 50, of Goleta, is accused of killing his brother, Daniel Lyons, 55, and his brother’s partner, Barbara Scharton, 48, in their Mesa home in the early hours of May 4, 2009.

Previous witnesses outlined a lawsuit between the brothers, in which Daniel Lyons, an attorney, was suing Corey Lyons, a contractor, for underreporting workers compensation. Daniel Lyons was trying to get damages in the amount of the money he had paid to build his Aurora Avenue home.

Acquaintances, colleagues and friends of Corey Lyons described conversations they had with him in which he became angry, upset and used harsh language in reference to his brother and the lawsuit. The witnesses all testified that the behavior was out of character for Corey Lyons.

A fellow contractor, who had known the brothers since they all attended San Marcos High School together in the early 1970s, testified that Corey Lyons had gotten red-faced, upset and angry, yelling, “He’s not my (expletive deleted) brother, (expletive deleted) him.”

A Home Depot employee testified that he had a similar experience when the normal greeting of “how’s it going?” resulted in a 10-minute “rant” as Corey Lyons said he had felt screwed over by his brother all his life. The Mesa house was an olive-branch offering, the employee said Lyons said, but now he and his wife, Mildred, were being sued.

“I want this (expletive deleted) dead,” witness Jeffrey Essex recalled Corey Lyons saying.

The whole time, Corey Lyons had his 4-year-old daughter in one arm and clenched his other fist.

“He said how pissed he was at his brother and how there’s always been bad blood between the two of them,” Essex said.

Roofing contractor Fred Hudson, who had worked with Corey Lyons previously, had a conversation in which Lyons asked “in a joking manner” if Hudson knew anyone willing to “take out” his brother.
“Hell, I’ll even pay ‘em,” Hudson recalled Lyons saying. Hudson said Lyons had said his children were the only thing stopping him.

Hudson mentioned his own experience with that kind of “rage,” when he found out his wife had been cheating and said he felt he could have taken a shotgun to kill her and her lover — although he never acted on those thoughts. Despite prompting from both attorneys, Hudson said he could not recall whose statement had come first — Corey Lyons’ or his own — in that conversation, which occurred about a week before the homicides.

James Cushman, who works in heavy construction and met Corey Lyons through his own son, had a professional and personal relationship with Lyons. In mid-April of 2009, Lyons had come to him for financial help because of the lawsuit dispute and in that meeting, which took place in the Santa Barbara Yacht Club parking lot, he was “emotional sometimes and very level-headed in others,” Cushman said.

Cushman said Corey Lyons admitted underpaying workers compensation and the conversation ended with the idea of having Cushman buy Lyons’ home and rent it back to him.

“If he needed me to do that, I would do that,” Cushman testified.

No concrete steps were taken to make progress on that deal, however, and Corey Lyons was arrested soon after Daniel Lyons and Scharton were shot to death.

Testimony then turned to the early morning hours of May 4, when neighbors on Aurora Avenue called police to report hearing gunshots. Three 9-1-1 calls were received that morning, between 1:20 and 1:32 a.m., Santa Barbara police dispatcher Margaret Smith testified.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss and prosecuting attorney Vicki Johnson played the recordings for the jury. In the recordings, two male neighbors called police to say they heard what they believed to be gunshots in a home nearby.

The first caller, Paul Castleberg, said he woke up to five or six “pop sounds,” which he said he thought were gunshots, and he called police within a minute of hearing them. He said he saw nothing outside and went back to bed, only to see headlights from a vehicle move across his ceiling a few minutes later. He looked out his window and saw a light-colored pickup truck driving uphill of his home, toward Meigs Road, he said.

Defense attorney Bob Sanger questioned Castleberg on the timing of the shots he said he heard, whether he could distinguish their type, and his account of seeing the pickup truck.

Castleberg said the shots “seemed to come within quick succession” and sounded “sharper,” more characteristic of a pistol, than “broader,” which he associated with a shotgun noise.

Upon hearing the call to police that computers linked to his residence, he said the voice may not even sound like him. Additionally, he had thought he mentioned hearing breaking glass, although nothing to that effect was clearly audible in the recording.

Breaking for the weekend, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Brian Hill reminded the 16-member jury not to speak about the case with anyone and to try to stay off the Internet. Jurors are forbidden from looking up legal terms or anything related to the case.

Testimony will resume Monday.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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