PLEASANTON -- A Livermore couple charged with murder after their drug-making lab exploded and killed their partner, pleaded guilty Tuesday to lesser charges and avoided a possible life sentence.
Evan Avilés, 23, and Lexie Hutson, 23, had pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder in the death of Paul Lom. Avilés withdrew that plea and pleaded no contest Tuesday to the lesser count of involuntary manslaughter. Hutson withdrew her plea to second-degree murder and pleaded no contest to being an accessory.
In exchange for their plea deals with the Alameda County District Attorney's office, Avilés will receive three years in state prison for involuntary manslaughter. Hutson will receive 5 years of felony probation and serve one year in the county jail for being an accessory. The couple also had charges of manufacturing of a controlled substance dismissed as part of the deal.
"They both faced life in prison and could have faced more on the drug charges," said David Bryden, the court-appointed attorney who represented Hutson. "It was fair and just and I appreciate what the district attorney did."
According to the California Penal Code, Avilés and Hutson could have received a maximum of seven years for the drug-manufacturing charges.
Hutson and Avilés were arrested June 14, more than a year after the May 21, 2011, explosion and fire at their Silver Oaks Way apartment that killed Lom, 35. The couple was originally charged with murder and manufacturing a controlled substance, hashish oil.
Lom died after the explosion. Investigators say butane -- a flammable liquid used to make the drug -- spilled and pooled on the floor, causing the explosion that critically injured all three and resulted in Lom's death five days later.
In court Tuesday, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Joseph Eichhorn said Lom had offered Avilés a portion of the money from the sale of the hashish oil if he could use the apartment that Avilés and Hutson shared to manufacture the drug. Eichhorn also said that Hutson at some point helped in the harvesting of the marijuana, which is used to make hashish oil.
"(Lom) was the expert in manufacturing hashish oil," Bryden said. "And unfortunately, he basically killed himself."
According to court records, police searched the burned home and discovered a computer with searches for hash oil, hash and butane as well as a how-to video downloaded from the Internet. The trio also shared text messages regarding manufacturing hash oil, and fingerprints from the couple were found on equipment used to manufacture hash oil, according to court records.
Hutson and Avilés are due back in court Oct. 24 and will be sentenced by Judge Stuart Hing in Hayward.
Contact Robert Jordan at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/robjordan127.