Verdict reached in Navy love-triangle stabbing

EL CAJON, Calif -- A Navy petty officer who fatally stabbed his girlfriend's estranged husband after being caught in bed with the victim's wife is a free man Tuesday following his acquittal on a murder charge.

Dylan Poston, 27, had been in custody since the March 6, 2018, death of 24-year-old Anderson Lopes, who was stabbed five times in the chest, stomach and back at his condominium near Lake Jennings on Pinkard Way.

Poston's attorneys maintained that Poston killed Lopes in lawful self- defense after Lopes attacked him with a metal pipe. Prosecutors alleged Poston remained at the condo longer than needed after Lopes angrily demanded that Poston and Lopes' wife leave the home.

Following about eight hours of deliberations, an El Cajon jury returned a verdict of not guilty Monday afternoon and also rejected a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

One of Poston's attorneys, David P. Shapiro, said jurors agreed that Poston "was entitled to self-defense."

Poston was released from custody late Monday and Shapiro said he was planning to report for duty with the Navy later this week.

"We're certainly excited with the jury's verdict and excited at the prospect of Dylan returning to his life," Shapiro told City News Service.

Lopes and his wife, Michelle Tsethlikai, were married for less than a year when she filed for divorce but had continued living together at their condo 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, met Tsethlikai 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.

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 Stefano Molea, another attorney representing Poston, 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.

Molea told jurors 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.

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