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Jury orders death penalty in 1988 murder of pregnant O.C. woman

GibbonsA man serving a lengthy prison term in Michigan for rape should be put to death for assaulting and murdering a pregnant Costa Mesa woman in 1988, an Orange County jury has ordered.

Jason Balcom, 42, was convicted last March of one felony count of murder with special circumstances connected to the sexual assault of the 22-year-old woman, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

On Thursday, jurors called for him to get the death penalty. He is set to be formally sentenced in June.

Prosecutors said that on the morning of July 18, 1988, Balcom entered the apartment of Malinda Gibbons, who had recently moved to Costa Mesa with her husband and was between four and six weeks pregnant. She was home alone at the time of the attack, unpacking. 

Balcom bound Gibbons' hands and feet using her husband's neckties and sexually assaulted her before fatally stabbing her in the chest, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said he then took Gibbons' purse, pried her wedding ring off her finger and fled.

At the time, Balcom lived with his mother and aunt on the same street, a quarter of a mile south of the Gibbons' home.

Prosecutors said Kent Gibbons found his wife's body and called the authorities. Costa Mesa police investigated the killing and collected evidence. 

In 1999, a DNA test was conducted on the samples collected from the scene, using technology that had not been available at the time of the attack. The DNA profile of the then-unknown suspect was added to a national database.

Investigators linked Balcom to the Gibbons case in 2004, after Balcom was convicted of rape in Michigan that year and his DNA was entered into the database. Balcom was brought to Orange County to face the charges from Michigan, where he is serving a 30- to 50-year prison sentence.

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-- Rick Rojas

Photo: Malinda Gibbons. Credit: Costa Mesa Police Department

 
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