In opening statements, an Orange County defense attorney told jurors that his client raped and then fatally stabbed a pregnant newlywed in her Costa Mesa apartment in 1988 while her husband was at work.
“This is a horrible case, you don’t have to make it worse than it already is,” deputy public defender Thomas J. Lo told jurors Monday at his client’s murder trial in Santa Ana. “Hold him accountable for what he did, and only what he did.”
The defense attorney’s tactic appears aimed at fighting the death penalty, which his client could face if convicted.
What prosecutors allege, and Lo acknowledged to the jury, is that Jason Balcom entered Kent and Malinda Gibbons’ apartment on July 18, 1988, and sodomized and killed Malinda Gibbons.
Balcom, now 41, is charged with murder during the commission of sodomy, rape, robbery and burglary.
The alleged three-time rapist choked and tied up the 22-year-old, six-weeks-pregnant woman with her husband’s neckties and belts before raping her on her bedroom carpet and stabbing her in the heart, prosecutors claim.
Balcom stole her wedding ring and purse after the slaying, prosecutors said.
Nearly 24 years after his wife was killed, Kent Gibbons was visibly devastated Monday.
Sitting in court during opening statements, he began to tremble and looked away when jurors were shown a photo of the crime scene, with his wife’s bloody, partially disrobed body on the apartment floor.
On the witness stand he testified that everything was looking up for him and his wife before the killing. The Mormon couple were newly married and transplanted from Utah.
“We really wanted children, so she was already buying stuff in preparation for babies,” Gibbons said testified. “I’d always say, ‘Honey, we don’t have kids,’ and she’d say, ‘That’s all right because I want to be prepared.’ “