A North County judge declared a mistrial Tuesday, Sept. 17, after jury deadlocked in the case of a 41-year-old man accused in the death of his father, found strangled and beaten in his Rancho Santa Fe home two years ago.
A Superior Court jury in Vista split 11-1 in favor of convicting Leighton “L.B.” Dorey IV of first-degree murder. Attorneys on both sides will be back in court next week to determine the next steps, and possibly set a new trial date if prosecutors want to retry the case.
At trial, there was no dispute that he killed 71-year-old Leighton Dorey III. The defendant took the stand in a Vista courtroom and testified that he had done it.
But, the younger man said, it had been self-defense.
The younger Dorey, now 41, had lived in France for about four years, returning stateside just days before the deadly encounter, which happened late in the morning on May 30, 2017.
That day, after running an errand, the victim’s wife found his bloody, battered body at the bottom of a staircase.
The father’s body was so damaged, paramedics who first responded to the scene thought he had been shot.
An autopsy revealed he had been beaten and choked during the struggle. Several of his teeth had been knocked out, and found strewn about the small room. He died of blunt force trauma.
During closing arguments Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Patricia Lavermicocca said the defendant was angry with his father because the older man refused to finance the younger man’s lifestyle.
The defendant, she said, was “entitled and spoiled” and “a narcissistic parasite.” She said the victim “never had a chance” when his son stopped by that morning.
“He did not know when he opened the door on May 30 that he was staring death in the eye,” Lavermicocca told the jury.
According to the prosecutor, blood evidence indicates that during the encounter, the father tried to get away and made it three steps up the stairs before he was pulled back.
Lavermicocca said the defendant choked his father and slammed his head into the stairs several times. She said with every blow, the attacker had a chance to stop the beating.
“He didn’t stop. He punched him again,” the prosecutor said. “He saw the blood, he saw the teeth and he didn’t stop.”
The defendant was about two inches taller, 20 pounds heavier and 32 years younger than his father.
The morning after the attack, the younger Dorey was arrested in the Riverside County community of Idyllwild.
Dorey’s attorney used his closing argument to ask the jury to find Dorey not guilty, arguing that it had happened in self-defense.
“L.B was completely justified in defending himself against his father,” defense attorney Wil Rumble told the panel.
Rumble pointed to Dorey’s testimony that his father had abused him as a child.
The younger man also told the jury that during the fatal fight, when he had knelt down to tie his shoe, his father came up behind him and threw a belt around his neck.
Rumble said his client had no financial motive to kill his father, that the son knew his father had cut him out of his will. There was also no evidence that father had given son any money during his four years in France.
The jury got the case late Thursday afternoon, Sept.12, and deliberated all day Friday, Sept. 13, and Monday, Sept. 16.
— Teri Figueroa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune