The man serving a prison sentence for the 1988 murder of a Lompoc man has died while behind bars, months before his next parole hearing.
Victor Perea, 71, died of natural causes at the Valley State Prison in March, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Press Secretary Dana Simas on Thursday.
Perea was convicted of first degree murder for the death of Harold “Skeeter” Lyerla, who was stabbed to death at his Lompoc home.
According to the victim's family, Perea's next parole hearing was scheduled for July and they are relieved they no longer have to worry about his release.
"My mother and I are beyond relieved that we will no longer have to attend these parole hearings and face the day when Victor Perea is released," Lyerla's niece, Tamara Pickarts, said. "Such a burden has been lifted, and we're so grateful. Victor finally got his death penalty."
In Dec. 2018, Lompoc Police Sgt. Kevin Martin told KSBY that his office had recently discovered new information in the case that may lead to charges against an additional suspect.
Though Perea did not know Lyerla personally, he was well acquainted with the lover of the victim's wife.
Lyerla's family has long alleged that Cynthia Knox, the wife of the victim, played a role in Lyerla's murder.
Knox was never charged in connection with Lyerla's death, but she was convicted of using a false name while operating a cruise ship with the man she was having an affair with.
“I don’t know why the prosecutor at the time declined to file charges. It seems obvious to me (that Knox was involved in the murder)," Martin told KSBY in 2018.
Knox is set to be released from prison this year.
"We hope Cynthia Knox will also be held accountable for her role in the crime," Pickarts said.