The former boyfriend of Dixie Ann Dyson was convicted of conspiracy and first-degree murder Wednesday in the third and last of the trials involving the 1984 stabbing death of her Huntington Harbour husband.
The question remaining is whether Dyson, already convicted in the murder, will gain a lighter sentence after testifying against her co-conspirators.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles J. Middleton insists that no deals were made in exchange for Dyson's testimony in the trial of Enrico Vasquez, her former boyfriend.
"I know that I will make the judge aware of her cooperation," Middleton said. But beyond that, Middleton said he has not decided what recommendation he will make to the court.
Sentencing for her first-degree murder conviction had been postponed for two years while her testimony was pending in the other two trials. She is now scheduled to be sentenced June 8.
Prosecutors say Dyson, 46, and Vasquez killed her common-law husband, 30-year-old Mel Dyson, to collect more than $200,000 in insurance money. Prosecutors claim that they hired a friend of Vasquez, George Ira Lamb, 27, of the Bronx, N.Y., to do the actual killing on Nov. 17, 1984.
A Superior Court jury deliberated seven days before returning guilty verdicts against Vasquez on Wednesday. Six months ago, a separate jury had acquitted Lamb on the murder charges but did find him guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
The jurors were unaware, however, that conspiracy and murder carry the same penalty--25 years to life.
That's the same automatic prison term Vasquez faces when he returns to court June 15 for a sentencing hearing before Superior Court Judge Theodore E. Millard. It's also the same sentence Dyson faces.
Judges do have some leeway in reducing a sentence, however. Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin, who presided at Dyson's trial, stated at one of her recent sentencing postponements that he is aware of her cooperation with authorities. The judge added he assumes that it's because she wants favorable treatment on her own sentence, but he did not commit himself beyond those statements.
"Dixie has told me that she wants to speak with me before she is sentenced," prosecutor Middleton said. "I'm sure I'll go see her before deciding anything."
Dyson was not always so cooperative with authorities.
The night her common-law husband was killed, she told Huntington Beach police that an intruder had broken into their condominium, raped her and stabbed her husband. Then, she said, the intruder forced her to drive him past the security gate of the condominium complex in his escape.
The police suspected Dyson's involvement immediately. She was arrested two years later on the eve of a court hearing over the insurance money. Shortly before, detectives had intercepted a letter she had written to Vasquez, who was living in New York.
"Take care and don't get careless," she told him. "They (the police) are still out there."
Dyson told jurors at the trials of Vasquez and Lamb that she and Vasquez planned the murder and hired Lamb to carry it out. His payment was to be an unspecified portion of the insurance money.
Dyson testified that she helped Lamb get into the condominium and that he killed Dyson.
Lamb's jurors said they found him guilty of conspiracy because Dyson's version of the planning could be corroborated by motel receipts and telephone and airplane records. But they acquitted him on the murder, they said, because they had nothing to go on except Dyson's testimony, which they found suspect.
Vasquez's jurors, however, told attorneys that they had no problem in deciding that Vasquez was part of the murder. Neither Lamb nor Vasquez testified at their trials. Lawyers for both of them relied primarily on attacking Dyson's testimony, trying to show jurors what she stood to gain from turning on the other two.