Public defender says man was arrested for alleged violent attack that never happened
The attorney for a Lancaster man who had a murder complaint against him dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office charged Monday that he never should have been arrested in the first place, claiming the homicide he was accused of committing never occurred.
“Since early October, Rylen Svane-Morris has been locked in a cell for a death penalty-eligible murder charge — for an alleged violent attack that never happened,” Senior Public Defender Erica Sutherland told the News-Press.
“The prosecution dragged its feet on the investigation, delaying the recovery of evidence exonerating my client,” she said. “He has been assassinated by the media, which published false information about a violent attack that never happened.”
On Oct. 8, 72 year-old Terry Lee Wilson was pronounced deceased near his home in Santa Ynez, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office said in a press statement released Friday. “His death has been under active investigation since then.
“Rylen Quinn Svane-Morris was arrested and charged with murder. Due to new information regarding Terry Wilson’s cause of death, the People cannot proceed with the homicide case against Rylen Quinn Svane-Morris at this time. Therefore, the People have dismissed the First Amended Complaint” against him.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Lara Clinton declined Monday to elaborate on the “new information” that has surfaced regarding Mr. Wilson’s cause of death, or the reasons why her office dismissed the murder charge against him.
“I can’t add anything further at this time,” she said. “There is still an active, ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding Terry Wilson’s death. Releasing further information could compromise this investigation. I anticipate being able to release more information when it is complete.”
Ms. Sutherland, however, said the District Attorney’s Office made a rush to judgment against her client.
“Last Friday the prosecution admitted it never had enough evidence and dismissed the murder charge, but the damage to Mr. Svane-Morris is already done,” she said. “This has been an extremely traumatic experience for someone who attacked no one. I urge the media and the community to be skeptical of allegations made against anyone before evidence is presented.”
Mr. Svane-Morris, 26, was accused of killing Mr. Wilson, the father of a young woman he had been dating, whose body was discovered around 4 a.m. near a neighbor’s door in the 1000 block of Jason Way in Santa Ynez.
He pleaded not guilty at his Oct. 13 arraignment to charges of murder, assault with personal use of a deadly weapon, and dissuading a witness by force or threat, all felonies.
Mr. Svane-Morris was arrested two days earlier in Santa Cruz by officers acting on a tip. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office arrested him without incident on an outstanding homicide warrant.
Investigators believed he fled the Santa Ynez area in a stolen vehicle, which was
recovered by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and released to the owner.