A descendant of one of Southern California’s largest landowners, a homicide and one family’s search for justice. That is at the center of a story that will be told in San Diego Superior Court after two wrongful death lawsuits were filed by the family of a man that was allegedly beaten to death inside his front doorstep.
The fiancé of George Sloss and his two daughters have filed two wrongful death lawsuits against the alleged assailant, L Byron Culver III. The family hopes the civil lawsuits will compel the District Attorney to press criminal charges against Culver.
The alleged assault happened on Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018.
On that evening, Solana Beach resident George Sloss’s fiance, Mendy Cox said he had delivered Mother’s Day dinner to her as she sat on the couch in front of their fireplace inside their Solana Beach townhouse.
That’s when Cox told NBC 7 Investigates and investigators for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that she and Sloss heard a knock on their front door. Sloss got up from the couch to answer the door while Cox sat ten feet away in the couple’s living room.
The man on the other side of the door was L. Byron Culver III, a descendant of the Culver family, known to have farmed much of what is present-day Irvine, California. The family name and their contribution to the City of Irvine and Orange County resulted in naming one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Culver Drive, after them.
Cox said she heard Sloss open the door and allow Culver inside. She says Culver had lent Sloss $62,000 five years back and Sloss and she had been paying it off monthly.
“George says, ‘Hey buddy, how are you?’” Cox tells NBC 7 Investigates. “And, he says, ‘Not good.’ I could literally hear [Culver] breathing heavy, like really hard. George told him to calm down, everything will be ok.”
She heard Culver say to Sloss, “No, no, it’s not ok. I just want to hit you in your [expletive] face.”
Cox said she sat on the couch, unsure what to do. She looked over at Sloss who had been rifling through a green folder to find proof that he had made the last payment.
Cox says she turned around for a second.
“That’s when I heard papers flying,” she said. “I heard this thud and I felt the back of the couch move.”
Cox says she got up, ran around the couch and found her fiance unconscious on the floor, blood streaming from the back of his head. She said Culver had hit Sloss and Sloss fell backward, his head striking the corner of a wooden table which was against the back of the sofa where Cox had been sitting.
She said Culver spread Sloss’ legs open and began to kick him in his groin.
Cox jumped on Culver. She kicked him and hit him. She said he kicked her to get her off of him.
Culver declined NBC 7 Investigates' request for an interview, nor did he answer questions about the incident.
“Somehow, whether it was me screaming and pushing him but he finally backed up and stepped out of the house,” Cox said. “I grabbed the door and slammed it shut.”
Cox said she turned back around and saw Sloss laying there unconscious.
“There was just this large pool of blood,” Cox said. “I’ve seen a lot but never, ever in my life have I felt this way. I slid down on my knees to try and stop the bleeding. I feel the back of his head and that’s when I get sick.”
Cox says Culver had already left. She called 911. Paramedics showed and took Sloss to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla.
Doctors put Sloss into a medically induced coma to try and prevent his brain from swelling.
Cox says Sheriff’s Deputies arrived at the hospital. They took Cox’s report. Cox said she later pressed assault charges against Culver.
The following day deputies arrested Culver on felony assault charges. Culver, according to court documents filed in the wrongful death lawsuit, immediately posted bail.
Meanwhile, Sloss’ condition worsened. Cox said that doctors informed her and his family that Sloss had suffered major brain damage. Four days later, Cox said she got a call in the middle of the night from the hospital.
“The doctor told me,” Cox said, “that [Sloss] had a turn for the worse and that he was not likely to make it through the day.”
When she arrived at the hospital she said she wanted to say goodbye to her fiance. “The one thing I wanted,” she said, “ was to just put my ear on his chest and hear his heartbeat. Because that’s how every night when we were together I would go to sleep.”
Sloss died a few minutes later.
NBC 7 obtained a copy of the Medical Examiner’s report. The report found that Sloss died as a result of “blunt head trauma” as a result of the punch and the subsequent fall. The office ruled the manner of death as a homicide.
“He was my best friend,” Cox told NBC 7 Investigates. “We talked every day. We did things together. I just miss not seeing his smile and just having him hold me at night.”
She said in the first days after Sloss’ death she did not think much about the criminal investigation. She was too busy grieving for her fiance. But Cox said she soon learned more “disturbing news” in the days to come.
She learned that the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office had decided not to press any charges against Culver, this despite the fact that she says she was an eyewitness and police had arrested Culver following the alleged assault.
In a statement to NBC 7 Investigates, a spokesperson for the San Diego County District Attorney said the office did not have enough to pursue filing criminal charges.
“We can only file criminal charges when we believe we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt,” Steve Walker, communications director for the District Attorney’s Office told NBC 7 Investigates.
Cox’s account was included in a preliminary report by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department's Investigators, obtained by NBC 7 Investigates. As was the case in the reports and her interview, Cox admits that she did not see Culver throw the punch but her back was turned when she heard the two thuds. Also, Sloss’ home had no surveillance cameras installed, so the incident was not recorded.
While Culver would not agree to an interview, Attorney Richard Layon who is representing Culver, told NBC 7 Investigates by email, “Of significant import is the fact that--after an extremely thorough investigation and review of all the underlying facts in this matter--the District Attorney's office has declined to file any charges against my client in this case.”
Added Layon, “We believe the aforementioned speaks volumes as to the culpability of Mr. Culver and the viability of the Plaintiffs’ claims for monetary damages.”
“It’s bizarre that the Sheriff’s Department knows a crime occurred but the District Attorney’s Office not only dropped the felony assault charges but refused to prosecute for murder,” Reza Sina, Cox's attorney told NBC 7 Investigates. “We will get justice for this family.”