Trial begins in formerly cold Morro Bay murder case

October 18, 2016
James Victor Lypps

James Victor Lypps

Trial has finally begun in the murder case involving a Nipomo man accused of having murdered his wife at the couple’s then-Morro Bay home in 2009. The prosecution says James Lypps, 66, strangled and then drowned his wife, while the defense argues she committed suicide. [KSBY]

On June 23, 2009, Lypps called 911 and frantically reported that it seemed his wife had slipped in the bathtub. Paramedics arrived at the home and found Sherre Ann Neal-Lypps, 62, submerged in the tub.

San Luis Obispo County’s coroner ruled Neal-Lypps’ cause of death was asphyxiation due to strangulation and drowning. However, Morro Bay  police did not make an arrest for more than five years, and the case subsequently stalled in San Luis Obispo court.

The case went cold due in part to an oversight of evidence. Cold case investigators found that police did not process the victim’s fingernail clippings for DNA. When police finally sent the fingernail clippings to the Department of Justice crime lab, they returned with Lypps’ DNA on them.

Morro Bay police arrested Lypps in Dec. 2014. Then in Feb. 2015, a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to rule out suicide, nor a clear motive to proceed with the murder trail. The judge ordered sheriff’s deputies to release Lypps from SLO County Jail.

A day after his release, Lypps was arrested again, upon an order from the district attorney’s office. He returned to jail, and in March 2015, a different judge ruled there was enough evidence to proceed with a murder trial.

On Monday, jurors listened to opening statements, as well as a recording of Lypps’ 911 call.  Lypps sounded very emotional during the call, and dispatchers tried to calm him down while paramedics responded to the home.

Prosecutors presented photos of the bathroom mirror at the Morro Bay home, which showed daily affirmation notes Neal-Lypps had written. The affirmations related to weight loss, drinking water, aerobics, stretching and muscle building, all of which Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt described as future-thinking behavior.

Devitt also said a mark found on Neal-Lypps’ neck indicated she was strangled

Defense attorney Matt Guerrero showed jurors two suicide notes he claims were written by Neal-Lypps. One of the notes stated, “Too depressed to go on. God forgive me.”

Guerrero also presented photos of the home, which he said showed no signs of a struggle having occurred. The defense attorney has previously argued Neal-Lypps was abusive to her husband and that neighbors had stated she was often the aggressor during fights.

The trial is expected to last another five weeks.