SANTA ANA – A convicted rapist serving a 50-year term in a Michigan prison deserves the death penalty in California for the sexual assault and murder of a pregnant Costa Mesa housewife nearly 25 years ago, an Orange County prosecutor argued Monday.
Jason Michel Balcom, now 43, is a narcissistic, psychopathic sadist who sexually assaulted four women during a three-month span in the summer of 1988 shortly after he was released from a juvenile detention facility, Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said.
One of those victims, Malinda Godfrey Gibbons, was bound, gagged and stabbed to death in her apartment, Murphy said.
“He is the worst of the worst,” Murphy said in his closing argument of Balcom’s second penalty-phase trial.
Defense attorney Dolores Yost told the jury in the beginning of her summation that Balcom, who was 18 when the crime spree occurred, was raised by an unfit mother who was likely mentally ill and prone to episodes of inappropriate, intense anger. She said Balcom was sexually and emotionally abused as a child.
Yost contended that because of Balcom’s childhood, there is “substantial and important mitigation” in his case that calls for a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence. Yost will finish her final argument Tuesday.
Balcom, in prison for more than two decades for a September 1988 rape in Battle Creek, Mich., was convicted by an Orange County jury last year of special-circumstances murder for killing Gibbons, 22, during a sexual assault, robbery and burglary.
But that jury deadlocked, 10-2, in favor of death during the penalty phase, setting the stage for Balcom’s second penalty phase. The only decision for this jury will be to recommend whether Balcom receives the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Police reports and news accounts show Gibbons was 22 and pregnant in the summer of 1988, when she and her husband moved from Utah into a Costa Mesa apartment to start their life together. She was, her brother said, “the sweetest person in the world.”
But a few days later – on July 18, 1988 – Kent Gibbons returned home from work and found the semi-nude body of his wife. She had been bound and gagged with his ties, stabbed in the chest and sexually assaulted. The case was unsolved for more than 25 years.
In 2004, the Michigan state crime lab contributed to a national DNA database of convicted felons, allowing Costa Mesa police detectives to compare genetic materials recovered from Gibbons’ body to past and present Michigan inmates. Balcom was a match.
Murphy told the jury that the aggravating factors involved in Gibbons’ murder, the violent attacks on the other three women and the lingering devastation to those who cared about Gibbons warrants a death verdict.
By LARRY WELBORN/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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