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Man found guilty in strangling death of Utah woman

Man found guilty in strangling death of Utah woman

(Evan Cobb, KSL)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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PROVO — A jury delivered a guilty verdict Tuesday for a man charged with strangling a Provo woman in 2014.

Jerad Dale Gourdin, 35, could spend up to life in prison for the murder of 60-year-old Belen Perez. He will be sentenced in January for aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.

Gourdin was charged in August 2018 — four years after Perez’s death — after telling a fellow inmate at Utah State Prison about the killing in an attempt to join a gang, according to prosecutors.

Perez’s adult son found her dead and covered with chemicals in her Provo home, 1675 W. 50 North, on May 21, 2014. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation.

Investigators initially believed Perez’s death was a random crime, perhaps at the hands of a burglar. Her purse was sitting on a couch, and police said $350 and an iPod had been taken from it.

Gourdin had been living two doors down from Perez after his recent release from Utah State Prison, according to the charges. Neighbors said that earlier that day he had begun “moving about the neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking about doing odd jobs.”

At first, Gourdin told police he had only spoken to Perez “from the sidewalk while she was working in the yard.” He later said he had shook her hand and stepped three or four feet into her home.

Perez’s son found her with a power cord tied around her neck and “various chemicals,” including drain cleaner and antifreeze, poured over her body, police said.

At the time Gourdin told his fellow inmate about the murder, he was serving time in prison for aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, after stabbing a person with a screwdriver one day after Perez’s death.

Gourdin has prior felony convictions in Utah, including theft, a second-degree felony, failure to stop at command of police and possession of a controlled substance, both third-degree felonies, according to court documents.

“Utah County is much safer without Gourdin in our community,” Utah County Attorney David O. Leavitt said in a statement. “I’m proud of the excellent trial work of my deputy county attorneys to put a solid case before the jury and have them return a guilty verdict.”

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