Navy love triangle murder suspect appears in court

EL CAJON, Calif. — A Navy petty officer fatally stabbed his girlfriend’s estranged husband after being caught in bed with the victim’s wife, a prosecutor said Wednesday, while a defense attorney claimed his client stabbed the man in self-defense in order to fend off an attack with a metal pipe.

Dylan Poston, 27, is charged with murder in the March 6, 2018, death of 24-year-old Anderson Lopes, who was stabbed five times in the chest, stomach and back.

Lopes and his wife, Michelle Tsethlikai, were married for less than a year before she filed for divorce, but had continued living together at their condo near Lake Jennings so both could continue caring for their 2-year-old son, according to attorneys.

Deputy District Attorney William J. La Fond said Poston, a boatswain’s mate 3rd class, and Tsethlikai met while serving aboard a Navy vessel and began dating sometime in early 2018.

Lopes, who was also in the Navy, was expected to be on duty during the weekend of March 6, but unexpectedly arrived home around 10:30 p.m. to find his wife and Poston asleep in bed, according to La Fond.

In his opening statement, the prosecutor told jurors that Lopes punched Poston in the head multiple times, told him “Get the (expletive) out of my house,” then demanded the same of Tsethlikai.

Poston and Tsethlikai got dressed and prepared to leave, but Lopes was insistent with Tsethlikai as she began to descend the staircase leading to the front door, giving her a push that caused her to momentarily lose her balance, according to the prosecutor.

La Fond said Poston responded by telling Lopes, “I don’t want you hitting her,” while the defendant’s attorney, Stefano Molea, told jurors that he said, “I’ll leave, I just don’t want you hitting her.”

According to the prosecutor, Poston decided to stay in the house and arm himself with a folding knife .

When Poston refused to leave, Lopes went to a bathroom and retrieved a metal pole, then swung it at Poston, who blocked the blow, according to La Fond. The two then began tussling, leaving Lopes mortally wounded and Tsethlikai inadvertently stabbed in the leg while she tried to break up the fight, the prosecutor said.

Molea told jurors in his opening statement that Lopes overpowered Poston, who was only “hoping to stop the attack” and did not intend to kill him.

Molea said Poston only used deadly force when it was absolutely necessary to protect himself and Tsethlikai, telling jurors that Poston did not brandish the knife in the upstairs bedroom, even after Lopes began “raining punches” upon him.

“Dylan never laid a hand on Mr. Lopes until he emerged from the bathroom with the pipe,” Molea said.

He also alleged that Lopes had a history of being physically abusive with Tsethlikai, leading Poston to be especially fearful for her safety.

Molea said Poston helped perform CPR on Lopes until medics arrived and transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Poston remained at the condo and was arrested there by sheriff’s deputies.

La Fond told jurors that Poston should not have stayed when told to leave the house. The prosecutor said Poston should have expected something bad would happen if he remained, due to the punches Lopes delivered just minutes prior to the stabbing.

La Fond also referenced text messages between Poston and Tsethlikai in the days before the stabbing, in which the defendant mentioned concerns about being at her condo because he might be forced to fight Lopes.

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