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WEST JORDAN — Among the issues of guilt, innocence, motive and evidence, one element of the case against Cody Alan Reece was undisputed:
Magda Aleman, a 33-year-old housewife and mother of three, was brutally shot and killed in her Sandy home on July 13, 2010.
"Her life was sadly and senselessly cut short while she was at home in the seeming sanctity, security and safety of her own home," prosecutor Rob Neill told the jury. "Today is a day of reckoning for a brutal and meaningless crime."
Jurors agreed and found Reece, 32, guilty of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person and obstruction of justice, second-degree felonies, in connection with Aleman's death. The jury's verdict came after four hours of deliberation Tuesday.
Aleman was found lying face down on a couch in her home at 11436 Tiger Tail Circle (1100 East) by her husband, Israel, when he returned from work. Her three children, then ages 9, 7 and 3, were at the home of a neighbor.
Reece, 32, was charged with aggravated murder and aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person and obstruction of justice, second-degree felonies, in connection with Aleman's death.
Before the jury left 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck's courtroom to deliberate at 12:23 p.m., they heard two very different stories about the role Reece played in her death. Prosecutors say she was murdered in her own home after she startled him during a burglary. The defense says Reece went into the woman's home in an apparent drug-induced curiosity after hearing a gunshot.
Closing argument from the prosecution
Neill said Reece was near Aleman's home committing a string of thefts when he entered her home through an open garage to burglarize it.
Reece didn't expect to find Aleman, who was known as someone who could hold her own, Neill said. He assaulted her and shot her in the head. He reminded jurors that Aleman's blood was found on Reece's shirt, and that he was arrested in the neighborhood shortly after the killing.
Neill pointed to multiple conversations Reece had from jail in which he told his mother he could get the death penalty if he wasn't bailed out of jail, but didn't explain why. He added that Reece never talked about being wrongly accused.
Neill became emotional as he asked the jury to convict Reece on all charges.
"She was a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter and a friend — a beloved friend," he said. "Today is the day of reckoning to hold the man who murdered her responsible."
Closing arguments from defense
Defense attorney Lisa Remal said Reece was sleep-deprived and under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs and methamphetamine that day. She said those factors made him act differently than the normal person would, explaining her client's testimony that he only entered Aleman's house after hearing a gunshot and then saw the woman lying on the ground.
His first thought was that she must have shot herself, because that's what he saw, a single person lying there.
–Lisa Remal, defense attorney
"His first thought was that she must have shot herself, because that's what he saw, a single person lying there," Remal said, adding that Reece's memory of that day comes only in "snatches." "The next thing he remembers is being there and she was lying down."
She told jurors that Reece remembered having something wet on his hands, Aleman's blood, and wiping his hands on his shirt.
Next, Remal said Reece saw a Hispanic man with tattoos that led Reece to believe he was a gang member. She said this prompted Reece's next actions, which included breaking into another home in the area.
"We would all be out that door because we all have that instinct to protect ourselves," Remal said, adding that if Reece was guilty he'd have left the area altogether. "You wouldn't want to draw attention to yourself, because you just killed somebody. But if you were completely freaked out and trying to hide from someone with a gun ... Cody reacted instead of thought."
Reece will be sentenced Sept. 10.
Contributing: Shara Park