Dayle William Long, a former Riverside County sheriff’s deputy
accused of gunning down a Murrieta bar patron while off duty, was found guilty
today of second-degree murder.
The jury delivered its verdict 10 a.m. Thursday at Southwest Justice Center in French Valley before presiding Judge Angel Bermudez.
Long had been charged with one count of first-degree murder with an enhancement of discharging a firearm causing death.
Deputy Public Defender Jeff Zimel expressed disappointment with the verdict, saying he expected an acquittal.
“I think the jury … I think they got it wrong,” he said.
According to Zimel, Long is now facing a prison sentence of 40 years to life.
Today’s verdict stems from a Dec. 21, 2011 shooting at Spelly’s Pub & Grille, located at 40675 Murrieta Hot Springs Road. Long -- who at the time was a 10-year-veteran of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department -- had been drinking at the establishment when he shot Samuel Vanettes, 36, of Winchester.
When Murrieta police officers arrived on scene around 8 p.m., Long was arrested on suspicion of shooting the unarmed victim several times and killing him.
Jurors began their deliberations in the case Tuesday.The trial began Nov. 12.
During the trial, Long maintained he used his weapon in self-defense. He had been facing 50 years to life in prison if convicted of the first-degree murder charge and the sentence-enhancing allegations.
According to the prosecution, at least 11 people witnessed the defendant shoot Vanettes at point-blank range inside Spelly's. The victim had gone there with his sister and several friends.
A trial brief prepared by the prosecution states that Long had joined a retired colleague for drinks at the pub several hours before the attack. During the evening, Vanettes invited the defendant to take part in a game of team darts. The off-duty lawman parted company with his friend and joined the group, continuing to drink beer and hard liquor, according to prosecutors.
Shortly before 8 p.m., Long and Vanettes became embroiled in a seemingly insignificant argument about whether a certain street was located in Orange County. Vanettes's friend, Danny Burnside, told investigators that the defendant became belligerent and challenged Vanettes to "go outside" and fight.
Long allegedly stood up, removed a compact .45-caliber handgun from his waistband and leveled it at Vanettes and his friends, then sat back down.
The defendant denied pulling his gun until the actual shooting.
Another of Vanettes's friends stepped in front of the defendant and shouted an expletive, posturing aggressively, a bar patron told detectives.
All witnesses acknowledged that Long began backing away from the table where Vanettes and the group were seated and that Vanettes approached Long in an attempt to defuse the situation.
The bartender told investigators there was some shoving, and while several witnesses described Long as appearing "upset," most witnesses said he was acting "calm" as he backed toward the bar exit, court papers state.
The prosecution alleges that Long pulled his .45 a second time, leveling it at Vanettes from at least five feet away and firing six times. Long testified that Vanettes attempted to take his pistol from him.
Vanettes was hit by four bullets -- in the chest, shoulder, abdomen and cheek. He died at the scene.
After initially refusing, Long submitted to a blood test four hours after the shooting and was right at .08 percent blood-alcohol content, prosecutors said.
Long last worked as a bailiff at one of the three downtown Riverside courthouses. The sheriff's department fired him in March 2012. --City News Service contributed to this report.