A man who allegedly told Ventura County sheriff's investigators that he was involved in a slaying seven years ago in San Bernardino County pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder at his Municipal Court arraignment Tuesday in Barstow.
Andrew Scott Lyche, 29, of the San Bernardino County community of Red Mountain, was booked on suspicion of murder last Saturday after an interview at the Thousand Oaks sheriff's station in which he divulged details about a May 5, 1985, slaying.
The victim was identified on Tuesday by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department as John Orem Williamson of Santa Barbara, who was 28 when he was reported missing seven years ago.
Patrick Chaney of Moorpark said Lyche became a born-again Christian a week ago through Chaney's church in Thousand Oaks, the Conejo Koinonia, which he said was a Christian fellowship. Chaney said that after Lyche said he would "accept Christ in his life" he decided that he needed to talk about the slaying.
Gary Bailey, San Bernardino County deputy district attorney, said Lyche's bail was set at $500,000. The suspect will be held in the sheriff's jail in San Bernardino until his Sept. 23 preliminary hearing.
According to a statement issued Tuesday by the San Bernardino County sheriff, Lyche recalled attending a party in the desert near the community of Randsburg in Kern County.
"Lyche kidnaped the victim, took him to the Red Mountain area (near Highway 395) and disposed of his body in an inoperative mine shaft," the statement said. "Lyche admitted the murder to several witnesses and investigators determined that the motive for the murder was robbery."
As of Tuesday, no remains had been recovered. Authorities were trying to determine whether the deep mine shaft was safe to explore for evidence, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Bryant.
Prosecutor Bailey said: "We found some evidence that gives his story some credence. The Kern County sheriff found (the victim's) wallet and driver's license near the mine, which indicates that there was foul play. It leads us to believe that he is telling the truth."