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Defense attorney: Client killed pregnant woman

Attorney, hoping his client will not be executed, sets the tone in trial for 1988 Costa Mesa murder.

March 05, 2012|By Joseph Serna

SANTA ANA — In an attempt to soften jurors' views of his client ahead of a possible death sentence, a public defender Monday morning admitted during opening statements that his client raped and stabbed a woman to death in Costa Mesa in 1988.

"This is a horrible case, you don't have to make it worse than it already is," deputy public defender Thomas J. Lo told the jury at his client's murder trial in Santa Ana's Central Justice Center. "Hold him accountable for what he did, and only what he did."

What prosecutors allege, and Lo acknowledged to the jury, was that Jason Balcom walked into Malinda and Kent Gibbons' apartment on July 18, 1988, and sodomized and killed Malinda Gibbons while her husband was at work.

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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-week-pregnant newlywed with her husband's ties 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.

Lo said Balcom got the knife from the home's dishwasher and wielded it to "intimidate" Gibbons because she put up a fight.

"He got a knife. We don't know what happened in that apartment other than Malinda Gibbons was sexually assaulted and stabbed by Mr. Balcom," Lo told the jury, some of whom left the courtroom in tears when the trial broke for lunch.

As Lo described the case, Balcom kept his eyes downward, focused on the notes he took from the defendant's table. He wore a tailored charcoal gray suit over a merlot shirt and brown, patterned tie.

Nearly 24 years after the slaying, Kent Gibbons was visibly devastated Monday. Sitting in court during opening statements, he began to tremble with emotion and looked away when jurors were shown a photo of the crime scene, with his wife's body left partially disrobed and bloody on the apartment floor.

On the stand, he testified that everything was looking up for him and his wife before the killing. They were newly married and transplanted from Utah, where Kent Gibbons made $5 an hour at Big-O Tires and Malinda handled Big-O's credit account as an employee at Key West bank.

After about a year of working with Malinda, Kent Gibbons finally asked her out. Eight months later, they were engaged. In the courtroom, Balcom watched intently, staring at Kent Gibbons while he testified.

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