VISTA — As a United States Marine, Thomas Threats took an oath to serve his country, which he did honorably during peace and war. On Nov. 20, Threats was asked to take another oath — this time it involved testifying on behalf of his son.
By the time Threats took the stand, more than a dozen witnesses — both prosecution and defense — examined every detail of 28-year-old Derlyn Ray Threats’ life. Still, Thomas Threats, who was the defense’s last witness and ultimately the final witness in the penalty phase of the trial, brought a deeper insight into his son’s life as only a father could.
“He wasn’t streetwise, even though he thought he was,” Thomas Threats said. Some of the people Derlyn Threats chose as his friends had more street smarts than him, but they didn’t have his best interest in mind, he said.
“What he tried to do was help people that he couldn’t,” Thomas Threats said.
Derlyn Threats’ attorneys argued throughout the guilt phase of the trial — which concluded Nov. 13 when the jury returned with guilty verdicts on all three counts, including murder in the first degree with special circumstance allegations — that witness identification pointed toward Derlyn Threats’ friend, and the victim’s neighbor, Tony Brown.
Derlyn Threats faces life in prison without parole or execution for the murder of 24-year-old Carolyn Rebecca Neville, who was fatally stabbed more than 70 times during the morning of Sept. 1, 2005, at her home on Diablo Place in Vista after she had dropped her son off at elementary school.
Now 10, Neville’s son, who lives out of state, made an emotional statement for prosecutors, which was played for jurors the day before Thomas Threats took the stand.
“I was happy and we did a lot of stuff together,” the boy said. In addition to going to Legoland, he said he and his mother used to go to the beach regularly.
Throughout the trial, defense attorney James Weintre didn’t dispute that Threats was in Neville’s residence that morning.
Despite looking unfavorable, Weintre said the evidence found on his client when he was detained several houses away from the crime scene that morning, which included blood stains, the stun gun and a hammer handle, didn’t match the injuries to Neville’s body or the prosecutions theory that Derlyn Threats, a former Camp Pendleton Marine, had murdered the mother during a burglary interrupted.
Thomas Threats said his son had big heart and desperately longed to have a relationship with his mother, brother and sister.
Because Thomas Threats was in the military and Derlyn Threats was in his care due to his mother’s addiction to drugs, which she testified she has since overcome, he said his son moved throughout the country on a regular basis through his adolescent and teenage years living with family members, including Thomas Threats’ mother, sister and girlfriends.
“He desired to have a stable family,” Thomas Threats said.