Judge orders Morro Bay murder suspect released
February 21, 2015
A San Luis Obispo County Judge ruled Friday that their was not enough evidence to continue with the murder trial of a Morro Bay man accused of killing his wife five years ago. Superior Court Judge Donald Umhofer said there was not enough evidence or a clear motive to continue to trial.
Umhofer then ordered James Victor Lypps, 54, released from jail.
Earlier in the week, prosecutors accused Lypps of killing his wife in order to collect her Social Security money and use it to pay the mortgage. Umhofer said it was unclear how Lypps would have benefited financially from his wife’s death.
Lyyps was accused of murdering his wife Sherre Ann Neal-Lypps, 54, in 2009. However, police did not arrest him until Dec. 2014.
A cold case investigation revealed that the victim’s fingernail clippings had Lypp’s DNA on them. Morro Bay police initially did not process the fingernail clippings for DNA and only recently sent them to a Department of Justice crime lab.
On Thursday, Lypps appeared in court for a preliminary hearing during which prosecutors called on Morro Bay Sergeant Sue Gomes to read a letter allegedly written by the defendant.
“I thought I was to get Sherre’s Social Security, which would have made the mortgage payment. I was wrong,” the letter states. “Something is very wrong with my brain.”
Gomes testified that she received the letter from Lypps’ brother-in-law and that the defendant had written it to his sister.
Defense attorney Matthew Guerrero argued that Neal-Lypps actually committed suicide. Guerrero said Neal-Lypps suffered from depression and had spent time in a psychiatric hospital shortly before her death.
When officers arrived at the house on the day of her death, they found her submerged in the bathtub.
Guerrero said, at the time, Neal-Lypps was depressed, had recently attempted suicide and had been placed in involuntary psychiatric hold. He also argued that Neal-Lypps was abusive to her husband and that neighbors had stated that she was often the aggressor during fights.
The coroner’s report, though, ruled that the death was a homicide. The report states that the official cause of death is asphyxiation due to strangulation and drowning.