A man charged with strangling his wife and blaming her death on suicide “appeared hysterical” when police arrived, according to a police report.
Appearing in court for the first time Thursday, James Victor Lypps, 64, of Nipomo, pleaded not guilty to murder in the death of Sherre Neal-Lypps.
According to an incident report filed by the Morro Bay Police Department, Lypps was crying and hyperventilating when police arrived at the couple’s Morro Bay home on June 23, 2009. The officer who wrote the report said he was familiar with Neal-Lypps from prior disturbance calls in the neighborhood and a domestic violence call between Neal-Lypps and her husband from 2006.
Lypps allegedly told another officer he’d left for coffee that morning and when he returned, he found his wife in the bathtub, unconscious. Lypps, who said he was his wife’s caregiver, allegedly told a fire captain at the scene that his wife had been hospitalized for severe depression and panic attacks two months earlier.
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In the home were stacks of medical billing statements and a large amount of prescription medication bottles, the report said.
“They were stacked in piles and also scattered individually throughout the house,” according to the report. “I also saw what appeared to be chop marks from an axe or hatchet in the door to James Lypps’ bedroom.”
According to other documents, neighbors said the couple fought often, with Neal-Lypps being the aggressor.
As paramedics tried to revive Neal-Lypps in the living room, the officer noted a dark, wide bruise around the front of her neck, near the base.
While searching the bathroom, the officer noted water all over the floor and a pair of women’s shoes near the tub. “I didn’t see a rope or anything suspended from the shower curtain rod that I could associate with a possible self-hanging,” wrote the officer, who is not identified in the report.
DNA evidence showed Neal-Lypps struggled with her husband before she died, police say. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and drowning.
Lypps is due back in court Dec. 9.