A Nipomo man accused in the 2009 death of his wife was back in court Wednesday to enter yet another plea of not guilty after a judge dismissed the original case against him last week and the district attorney re-filed the charge.
James Victor Lypps, 64, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murder in the death of Sherre Neal-Lypps.
In a preliminary hearing last week, witnesses for the prosecution said Lypps told officers he found his wife submerged in a bathtub when he returned to their Morro Bay home after shopping in June 2009.
Lypps' public defender, Matthew Guerrero, said Neal-Lypps committed suicide, and that she suffered from bouts of depression and had been held involuntarily at a psychiatric facility shortly before her death.
Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt said during the hearing that Lypps was motivated to kill his wife for her Social Security money. Investigators testified that a pathologist found Neal-Lypps’ cause of death to be asphyxiation due to a combination of strangulation and drowning.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge Donald Umhofer found there was not enough evidence to proceed to trial and dismissed the case. Lypps was released from County Jail that afternoon, only to be arrested again the next day, even though prosecutors had not filed another charge against him.
Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said California law allows prosecutors to re-file charges once in serious felony cases such as murder.
The new murder charge was filed Tuesday. At the second arraignment Wednesday morning, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy scheduled another preliminary hearing for March 10.
Though Umhofer presided over the first case, Duffy will now be tasked with listening to testimony and cross-examination of witnesses — the hearing on Friday featured five patrol officers and investigators — before deciding if the prosecution presented enough evidence to proceed to trial.
No new evidence has emerged against Lypps, Cunningham said Monday, but prosecutors may present more witnesses in the March 10 hearing may including the pathologist who ruled Neal-Lypps’ death a homicide, Devitt confirmed via email Wednesday.
Asked if the District Attorney’s Office is pursuing a strategy beyond hoping that Duffy will rule differently than Umhofer, Devitt only reiterated that prosecutors believe the facts prove Lypps’ guilt.
Lypps will remain in County Jail without bail until the hearing.