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Navy man found not guilty of murder after killing lover’s estranged husband

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

A Navy man who stabbed his lover’s estranged husband to death last year was not guilty of murder or manslaughter, an El Cajon jury decided on Monday.

Jurors acquitted Dylan Poston, 27, of both felony charges and allegations that he used a knife, which could have sent him to prison for life.

“A lot of emotion. A lot of relief while still acknowledging a loss of life,” defense attorney David Shapiro said of his client’s reaction on hearing the verdicts read. “He wishes (the fight) could have ended differently.”

Poston was released from county jail late Monday afternoon, after being in custody for 17 months, since his arrest on March 6, 2018.

That night, Anderson Lopes Jr., 26, came home from Navy duty unexpectedly and caught Poston in bed with Lopes’ estranged wife, Michelle Tsethlikai.

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Lopes, an operations specialist 2nd class, was still sharing a Pinkard Way condominium in the Lakeside area with Tsethlikai, who had left the Navy earlier last year. Poston was a boatswain’s mate 3rd class.

Attorneys said the woman met both men through the Navy, and started dating Poston as her marriage began to fail.

Poston and Tsethlikai testified that Lopes ordered them both out of the home after finding them in bed. They said Lopes gave Tsethlikai a shove that nearly sent her down the stairs, but she did not fall.

In opening trial statements, defense and prosecuting attorneys said Poston paused downstairs and Lopes grabbed a bar from a shower caddy before he approached Poston. The two men started fighting and Poston pulled out his pocket knife, opened it, and stabbed Lopes five times.

Tsethlikai tried to intervene and got cut on her leg by Poston’s knife.

Lopes fell against a wall and uttered, “OK, OK, OK” in surrender, Deputy District Attorney William La Fond said.

Tsethlikai called 911 to summon help for Lopes. Paramedics testified that it appeared his blood loss was too severe to be survivable. Lopes was pronounced dead when he reached a hospital.

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Sheriff’s deputies arrested Poston at the condo.

“The issue was whether Mr. Poston’s actions were legally justified under the law,” Shapiro said Tuesday. “It wasn’t so much a credibility issue. The jury believed he had a right to defend himself.”

Prosecutors charged Poston with second-degree murder and the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter, with allegations that he used a knife. The jury deliberated for about eight hours over the course of three days before reaching a verdict Monday morning, Shapiro said.

He said Poston was to report back to duty with the Navy this week. It wasn’t yet clear whether the Navy would conduct any type of trial or disciplinary hearing regarding Poston’s actions.

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© 2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune