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Jury Returns Split Verdict in Retrial of 2 Men in Lompoc Fatal Stabbing

In the second trial for pair of Lompoc men charged with a fatal stabbing, a Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury found one guilty of second-degree murder, but could not reach a verdict for the second defendant.

The jury began deliberating Friday in deciding the fate of Edward “EdRed” Carter, 23, and Dequan “Thumps” Matthews, 21, and returned the verdicts Thursday morning.

Matthews, who wielded the knife, was found guilty of second-degree murder and allegations he used a knife and committed the crime to benefit a criminal street gang as family members of the victim cried in the audience.

However, the jury of seven men and five women remained divided on Carter, leading Judge James Voysey to declare a mistrial after polling jurors to confirm they were hopelessly deadlocked. The split in five ballots taken was 10 to 2, jurors said, not revealing anything further.

Carter and Matthews were charged in connection with the June 2015 stabbing of rival gang member Jesse “Dizzy” Lara, 29, on the 400 block of North M Street.

During their first trial in 2016, a jury found the men not guilty of first-degree murder, but remained divided on lesser charges, leading to the retrial.

Deputy District Attorney Lynmarc Jenkins said the killing occurred due to gang warfare on Lompoc streets between the Six Deuce Brims and the VLP, while defense attorneys had argued the stabbing involved a case of self defense.

Matthews was accused of wielding the knife with a 9-inch blade while Carter was the driver of the distinctive silver sedan with pink accents and eyelashes above the headlights.

On the day of the stabbing, Carter posted on social media saying “VLPK” or VLP killer, and another comment referencing the previous death of VLP member by Six Deuce Brims, stating his intent, Jenkins said.

Carter drove through rival gang neighborhood, flipped a U-turn and stopped the car in a front of a group, which included Lara, who was stabbed eight times and did not have defensive wounds.

“This wasn’t a fight. This wasn’t self defense. This was a murder. It was planned,” Jenkins said. “You know it was planned by exactly how it was carried out. Not by what they say, but by the evidence and what the evidence shows you.

“And that rival died just like Mr. Carter posted,” Jenkins said. “What happened is just what he said was going to happen.”

During the fight, Matthews claimed he slipped and fell on fluid while wielding the knife in self defense, but the prosecutor cast doubt on the incident.

“This magic slipping potion doesn’t exist,” Jenkins said.

Defense attorneys contend the fight was not planned, saying their clients would not have set out to commit the crime in such a distinctive vehicle that belonged to Carter’s girlfriend.

The two defendants had recently been attacked in separate incidents, and Matthews had three teeth broken in the previous attack.

“We’re not talking about an organized plan to go and have a rumble in the middle of VLP territory,” Bixby said. “I’m sorry, it doesn’t fit.”

Carter made the U-turn after one of the rival gang members threw an object at the vehicle.

“If you haven’t even had a chance to say anything and people are coming at you and you’re engaged in a fight, do you not have the right to defend yourself? Of course you do,” Bixby said, denying the defendants were the aggressors. 

Under the law, a defendant is not guilty of murder if he believed he was in danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury, Bixby added.

Carter’s attorney, Brian Carroll, said the VLPs intimidate and attack African-American people in their neighborhood. . 

“The law specifically says you don’t have to run away. You can stand your ground,” he said. “The law applies to you, applies to me and applies to these two young black men.”

On the night of the fatal stabbing, Carter and Matthews intended to head to a party and never planned to assault VLP members, Carroll said.  

“There’s no credible evidence that such a plan ever occurred,” Carroll said.

At some point during the fight, Carter ran away from the scene. 

Defense attorneys called the prosecution’s witness, a then-14-year-old who was one of other two passengers in vehicle that night, unreliable.

Attorneys also disagreed whether gang involvement spurred the fight that led to the fatal stabbing.

The judge set sentencing for Matthews on March 12.

Matthews faces a sentence of 16 years to life in state prison. 

Carter, who remains in jail custody, was ordered to return to court Monday so prosecuting and defense attorneys could talk with the judge about “possible options.” 

“That obviously is an issue that has dominoes and far-ranging effects," Voysey said. 

Among options are a possible third trial or a plea deal.

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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