Authorities re-arrested a Nipomo man accused of killing his wife in 2009 on Saturday, one day after a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled there was not enough evidence to take the case to trial.
James Victor Lypps, 64, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of murdering his wife in their Morro Bay home.
Prosecutors do not have any new evidence against Lypps, a District Attorney’s Office spokesman said, but believe the law allows them to continue to pursue the case.
During a preliminary hearing Friday, Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt told Superior Court Judge Donald Umhofer that Lypps allegedly strangled his wife, Sherre Neal-Lypps, in a bathtub in order to get her Social Security money after she died.
Defense attorney Matthew Guerrero argued instead that Neal-Lypps succeeded in committing suicide, noting that she had previously attempted suicide and had recently been involuntarily held at a psychiatric hospital.
Umhofer sided with the defense, ruling that Lypps’ alleged motive — financial gain — didn’t make sense.
“I just don’t think the people’s motive is very strong,” he said Friday.
Lypps was released from the San Luis Obispo County Jail at 1:01 p.m. Friday. He was re-arrested Saturday evening and remained in custody without bail Monday.
Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Monday that the office plans to re-file a single count of murder on Tuesday.
Cunningham said that under the law, the District Attorney’s Office is allowed to re-file charges just once if the crime is a serious felony.
However, he said prosecutors’ evidence against Lypps is “basically the same.” Even so, the District Attorney’s Office believes the alleged crime — murder — is serious enough to pursue the case despite the ruling, he said.
“Reasonable minds disagree sometimes,” Cunningham said, referring to Umhofer.
He noted that re-filing the case would not constitute “double jeopardy,” a legal term to describe the prosecution of a defendant twice for the same crime, because a jury had not had a chance to reach a decision in the case.
Should the case return to court, another judge will likely preside. Umhofer, who is retired, was only expected to hear preliminary proceedings because of staff shortages at the courthouse.
Defense attorney Guerrero said Monday that he was “extremely disappointed” by his client’s recent arrest.
“I’m kind of at a loss right now,” Guerrero said. “The judge ordered him released, and they arrest him (the next day) without a new filing.”
Guerrero added that he is weighing options to pursue his Lypps’ release from jail since he was being held without charges filed against him.
If a new charge is filed, Lypps will once again enter a plea at an arraignment in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
That hearing is expected to be held Tuesday but had not been posted to the court calendar by late Monday afternoon.