Shooting death basketball
Claudell Garland Walter. Photo credit: Screen shot,

A felon who gunned down a youth basketball coach because he believed the man had stolen drugs from him has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The coach, Claudell Garland Walter, had ties to youth teams throughout Southern California, including San Diego County, authorities said.

In January, a Murrieta jury found Othelon Dale Lyons of Los Angeles guilty of first-degree murder and a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait for the June 2019 slaying of Walter, 38.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office did not seek capital punishment, though Lyons was eligible for it.

During a Thursday hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer imposed the sentence.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant was a reputed drug trafficker and targeted Walter because he believed the victim, who also worked as a truck driver, had stolen his supplies.

“Claudell Walter was a well-respected local youth basketball coach,” according to a trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Marcus Garrett. “His friends and family deny any knowledge of him being involved in any illegal activity of any kind.”

It was unclear whether the defendant and victim had ever met.

According to the prosecution, in May 2019 Lyons began a surveillance of Walter, attaching a GPS tracking device to the underside of the man’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup. The beacon provided real-time information on the victim’s movements, fed to the defendant’s mobile phone, Garrett said.

On the night of June 1, Lyons drove to the victim’s house in the 29000 block of Light Sails Court, just east of Menifee Road, and waited for Walter to return from Garden Grove, according to Garrett.

The victim and his son arrived home just before 10 p.m. Garrett said that the moment Walter stepped out of his pickup, Lyons “sprang from his concealed location and shot Claudell twice in the chest” with a 9mm pistol, then fled.

The victim’s son, 13, was not hurt. Walter died a short time later at Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar.

Detectives were able to obtain images from a security camera, capturing the Ford Explorer that the defendant was driving, according to the prosecution. However, it took six months before detectives procured sufficient evidence to identify the defendant as the shooter, culminating in his arrest.

Investigators then collected video and audio recordings from a detention center, in which Lyons had multiple conversations with fellow inmates, according to the brief.

The defendant incriminated himself with references to removing fingerprints from the ammunition and the phone that he used to monitor the GPS device on the victim’s pickup, according to the prosecution.

When the other inmates asked about a motive, Lyons replied, “He took some (expletive). He took a lot of it, dude,” according to the brief.

Lyons had a prior conviction in Kern County for spousal abuse, according to court records.

– City News Service