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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 9:20 pm | Fair 49º


Convicted Killer of Lompoc Man Denied Parole in 1988 Alleged Murder-for-Hire Case

Niece of fatal stabbing victim Harold ‘Skeeter’ Lyerla had led effort to fight Victor Perea's release

A man convicted in a nearly 30-year-old Lompoc killing has been denied parole, according to the niece of the victim in the alleged murder-for-hire case and the woman who has fought to keep the killer in state prison.

Victor Perea, 70, had his fourth parole suitability hearing on Thursday at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione southeast of Sacramento.

He was denied parole for another three years, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website. However, he has the option of petitioning for another hearing sooner, a step he has taken twice before.

Perea has been incarcerated since his 1989 conviction for the killing of Harold “Skeeter” Lyerla, who was found stabbed to death in his Lompoc home in November 1988.

Lyerla, who grew up in Santa Barbara, later married Cynthia Knox. They settled in Lompoc and had a daughter.

But the married woman allegedly had an affair with an Agoura Hills investor and rancher, John Litchfield, leading to the accusations that he, or they, hired Perea to kill Lyerla, according to a 2017 story in the Houston Chronicle. Perea reportedly worked for Litchfield and lived in a house on his property until the day of the killing, the newspaper reported.

Evidence included the discovery of the defendant’s fingerprint at the murder scene, the Chronicle reported. Authorities don’t believe that Perea knew Lyerla.

Perea initially denied he had been hired to kill Lyerla but later admitted it during a previous parole hearing.

For months, Lyerla’s niece, Tamera Lyerla Pickarts, has rallied friends and strangers to sign a petition opposing parole for Perea, who was convicted of the murder. She collected approximately 1,000 signatures.

Pickarts and her mother, Linda, Lyerla’s sister, attended Thursday’s parole hearing and got the outcome they sought, along with a warning that the decision likely will be different the next time.

“This is bittersweet news,” she said in a Facebook post. “He will be up for parole again in 18 months. The board told us to be prepared for next time.

“Thank you to all of you for your help, your signatures, your letters, and your prayers and positive thoughts. My family thanks you.”

The allegations of murder for hire recently received new attention due to an arrest in Texas for identity theft and other charges seemingly unrelated to the Lompoc homicide.

Living under a false identity, Lyerla’s widow, Knox, worked as a dinner cruise ship captain in Galveston along with her partner, Litchfield.

After reaching a plea deal in the identity theft case, Knox is serving time in federal prison. She is scheduled for release in 2020.

Litchfield died earlier this year.

Lompoc police have said they still consider Lyerla’s murder an active case.

With its many twists and turns, the case sparked several news articles after Knox’s arrest, and recently was the focus of an April television magazine show, 20/20 Homicide on ID: A Trail of Death.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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