VISTA — Fresh off a murder conviction, a North County jury is now tasked with determining whether Derlyn Ray Threats will be executed for the murder of a young mother.
“You have one choice before you and that choice couldn’t be more difficult,” defense attorney Wil Rumble said Nov. 16 in his opening statement for the penalty phase of Threats’ trial.
Through family and friends, Rumble said the defense would present Threats entire life, the good and the bad, for jurors to digest when making their decision whether Threats deserves to be sentenced to death for the murder of Carolyn Rebecca Neville around 9 a.m. Sept. 1, 2005, at her home on Diablo Place in Vista.
The panel of eight men and four women convicted Threats, 28, of one count each of murder in the first degree with special circumstance allegations, residential robbery and residential burglary.
Because jurors found true the two special circumstance allegations — the murder was committed during the robbery or burglary, and the murder involved torture — Threats, a former Camp Pendleton Marine, now faces either life in prison without parole or execution.
Defense Attorney James Weintre said in his closing arguments that police had arrested the wrong man for Neville’s murder. Despite Threats being stopped a few houses away carrying a stun gun and hammer handle as well as a bloody pair of socks, Weintre said evidence pointed to Neville’s neighbor, Tony Brown — a taller, huskier man — as the person who committed the murder. Weintre said it was Brown who witnesses described fleeing the scene and heard yelling that morning.
Weintre did not dispute Threats being in the house that morning. He said Threats had gotten into a situation he didn’t expect to be in, and panicked by fleeing. Weintre pointed to the bloodstains on the back of Threats’ clothing, which he said showed Threats had his back to Neville during the attack. Further, he said his client was a nonviolent man who had no motive to murder Neville.
However, prosecutors alleged the brutal murder was the result of a burglary interrupted. Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza pointed to Threats’ scant criminal history, a juvenile court conviction for robbery and a later incident with Oceanside police in which Threats made quick movement toward a stolen handgun in his coat pocket during a consensual search, as examples that Threats is capable of the violent crime.
Rumble told jurors in his opening statement that Threats’ father, Thomas, was a former Marine, who spent time at Camp Pendleton. Because Threats lived with his father, due to his mother’s destructive behavior, he had many mother figures, including his aunt and grandmother.
Threats’ childhood and teenage years consisted of moving frequently between the East and West coasts, Rumble said.
Acknowledging Threats made some mistakes growing up, Rumble said Threats lived a positive life, including mentoring a San Marcos teenager and taking care of his nieces and nephews when his sister contracted SARS several years ago.
Rumble said he wants to show the jury the positive moments in Threats’ life when no one was looking and he was not trying to render a verdict in the court of law.
Still, Espinoza told jurors he believes the evidence in the case revolving around the “horrific” murder “tips the scales of justice” in a favor of the death penalty.
“The evidence will show Threats should receive the ultimate sanction for his criminal conduct,” Espinoza said.
Neville, 24, was found dead in her living room at the end of a trial of blood with 75 wounds. Police found blood splatter on the staircase as well as a bloody pair of garden shears on the stairs.
Espinoza said he will present victim impact evidence from friends and family during the penalty phase to give a brief “snapshot” of Neville, who he said aspired to become a lawyer.
“Deryln Ray Threats should not get the penalty he wants,” Espinoza said. “He should get the penalty he deserves.”