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PROVO — A Provo man who strangled a neighbor woman with a power cord after his release from prison in 2014 has been ordered to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutor Lance Bastian called the case “nothing but a tragedy. For a burglary or a couple of hundred dollars, he took this person’s life,” the Provo Daily Herald newspaper reported.
A jury last month found Jerad Dale Gourdin, 36, guilty of homicide for pecuniary gain, a first-degree felony, in the death of 60-year-old Belen Perez.
Before reading his sentence Wednesday, 4th District Judge Thomas Low called Gourdin a “dangerous man.” Low praised the life Perez built in Provo after moving from her native Mexico to Los Angeles and then to Utah.
Her adult son found her dead in her Provo home, 1675 W. 50 North, on May 21, 2014, with the cord around her neck and covered in drain cleaner and antifreeze. An iPod and $350 was missing from her purse, police said.
“It’s very difficult for me to continue with life but I just think my mom would’ve liked me to keep going on,” her son Carlos Barcelata said.
Authorities initially believed she died in a burglary carried out at random. But they later reported Gourdin told a fellow inmate at the Utah State Prison the killing was an attempt to join a gang.
Prosecutors said she had been baking cookies for a friend that afternoon and ran an errand at Walmart. She likely surprised Gourdin when she returned and he was trying to rob her home.
Gourdin told the judge his attorneys did not do what he asked and he did not get a fair trial. He listened over speakers in a holding cell as his sentence was read, the Daily Herald reported.
His defense attorney Richard Gale argued Gourdin’s father was abusive and regularly beat him, leading a young Gourdin to prefer juvenile detention to being at home.
As an adult, he lived two doors down from Perez after his recent release from Utah State Prison in a drug case. Neighbors said he had been knocking on doors and asking to do odd jobs.
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.