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Lyons Trial Continues with Testimony from SWAT Team Members

Two Santa Barbara police sergeants describe tag-team efforts to enter the Aurora Avenue home where a couple were found dead in May 2009

Five hours after the first 9-1-1 calls were dialed from Aurora Avenue residents who heard gunshots last May, the Santa Barbara SWAT Team entered the home to find two bodies in different bedrooms, according to court testimony Wednesday in the double homicide trial for defendant Corey Lyons.

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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.

Lyons, a local contractor, built the home for his brother, who was found dead by police in a bedroom on the second floor. Scharton was found dead in a first-floor bedroom.

A lawsuit between the brothers regarding the home’s construction has been argued as a potential motive by the prosecution.

In Wednesday’s court proceedings, the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics members testified about being called to the scene.

Patrol officers responded after neighbors called 9-1-1 to report hearing gunshots about 1:30 a.m. After assessing the situation, SWAT was called to the scene and arrived about two hours later, Sgt. Mitch Jan said. He and Sgt. Dan McGrew each led teams to set up a stronger perimeter around the home, to evacuate neighbors and eventually to enter the home.

A sniper was put into position — just in case — and Jan said the mind-set is always to know there’s the potential for someone to be in the house who could shoot at officers as they enter.

McGrew said he and another officer thought they heard a cough, possibly coming from inside the home. That prompted higher commanders to have SWAT go in, and the two sergeants coordinated going in the first and second floors nearly simultaneously about 6:30 a.m.

While McGrew found an unlocked sliding glass door, Jan and his five-person team encountered “the most difficult door” they have ever had to breach. It doesn’t look like much, but their shotguns made specifically to shoot through locks couldn’t “defeat” the lock. When the shotgun was turned on the glass that made up most of the door, it turned out it was safety glass and crumpled rather than broke, much like a windshield would.

Jan and another officer kicked in the glass enough to crawl through the bottom and were able to thoroughly search the upstairs floor, as their counterparts made sure no one was hiding on the first level.

On the second floor, police found a deceased man in a bedroom. Prosecuting attorney Vicki Johnson showed the jury a picture of the scene as Jan saw it, which showed a naked man lying on his back on the floor with wounds on various parts of his body.

On the first floor, McGrew loudly announced the team’s presence as they entered through a sliding glass door. He said he saw a person’s legs hanging off the side of a bed in an adjoining bedroom and found a deceased woman lying on the bed. A picture showed the woman partly covered in sheets and pillows, and McGrew said he touched her leg, finding it cold, and determined from that and her facial injuries that she was dead.

He moved other pillows on the bed to see whether anyone was hiding under them, but found no one. Police didn’t find anyone, save the two bodies, in the home or see anyone leaving or entering the building once police had set up a perimeter, Jan said.

On the outside of the home, the two cars and motor home in the driveway also were searched, with no one found.

Testimony will continue Thursday morning in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom. Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss and Johnson are prosecuting the case, and Lyons is represented by Bob Sanger.

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.

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