Slain Fresno lawyers weren't in limelight

Because they practiced law in areas that rarely made headlines, Daniel Lyons and Barbara Scharton didn't have the star power of some of Fresno County's well-known attorneys.

But that didn't mean they weren't successful.

The couple that attacked both life and the law head-on was found dead from gunshot wounds early Monday in Santa Barbara.

Lyons' brother, Corey John Lyons, 50, has been arrested on suspicion of homicide in the deaths, according to Santa Barbara police.

Court records show there was a legal dispute between Dan Lyons and his brother, but police did not say whether that was the motive. It was unclear Tuesday what the dispute was about.

On Tuesday, colleagues remembered Scharton, 48, and her husband, Lyons, 55, as self-assured and tenacious attorneys.

Lyons, in particular, had a hard-nosed reputation. He specialized in defending major insurance carriers, self-insured clients, governmental entities and corporations during more than 25 years at the high-powered Fresno law firm of McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Wayte & Carruth.

A 1989 Bee column recounted a tense 1986 court exchange between Lyons and former attorney Paul Mosesian in which Mosesian said to Lyons: "I'm going to pop you. Do you understand?"

Lyons responded: "I'm not impressed, Mr. Mosesian."

In an interview Tuesday, Mosesian said he didn't recall the incident, but he wasn't surprised when told of the details.

"He wasn't a friend, but we were friendly adversaries," Mosesian said. "He was a hard-nosed guy just like I was when I practiced."

Mosesian recalled Lyons as "argumentative as hell," but also a dedicated advocate and good lawyer who was always well-prepared and was "very, very aggressive."

Even some of Lyons' colleagues learned of his aggressive personality.

"Many of us disagreed with Dan about one matter or another over the years, and he sure could irritate you when you and he didn't see eye to eye," recalled Anthony DeMaria, Lyons's friend and colleague at McCormick Barstow.

That said, DeMaria said of Lyons: "You'll never find a more loyal friend and partner than Dan. No matter what the cost, Dan always stood by, and stood up for, his friends."

Lyons joined McCormick Barstow as an associate in 1980 and became partner in 1985. He graduated from California State University, Chico, in 1977 and obtained a law degree from the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.

Colleagues on Tuesday recalled Lyons's defense of an agricultural chemical company that was sued in Tulare County for allegedly causing crop failures. With seven figures at stake, Lyons won a verdict for his client after a six-week-plus trial.

As Lyons rose through McCormick Barstow's ranks, Scharton joined the firm as a legal secretary in 1987. By 1990, she was in law school and working as a law clerk at the firm. Scharton was a graduate of San Joaquin College of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1994.

In 1997, Scharton was hired by then-District Attorney Ed Hunt, who recalled her as particularly aggressive. Had she continued her legal career, "she would have gone right up the ladder of success," Hunt said.

Instead, she stepped down in December 2003, when Lyons turned 50, said District Attorney Elizabeth Egan.

"I don't think of this as quitting because it is really just the culmination of a long-range plan my husband and I put in place a long time ago," she wrote in her resignation letter to Egan.

By that time, Scharton had risen from prosecuting misdemeanors to leading the department's marijuana suppression program. "She distinguished herself to be chosen for the grant position," Egan said.

Scharton went on eradication missions with narcotics officers and attended briefings.

For all their work, however, their names or legal work rarely appeared in the newspaper or on television.

And despite their tough legal reputations, both Lyons and Scharton had a different side when they were among friends and outside of court.

"Whatever he was doing, Dan had tremendous spunk, great fire, and he attacked life head-on," DeMaria said.

But he was happiest around his wife, Scharton. "Their greatest joy was time spent with each other, whether it was biking, hiking, cooking out, or driving around in their RV," DeMaria said.

After Scharton retired, they had built the house in Santa Barbara, and Scharton even did some work for the district attorney's office there, Egan said.

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