Closing arguments begin in case of man accused of first-degree murder in Huntington Beach
Jurors began hearing closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of first-degree murder with special circumstances in the death of his ex-girlfriend in Huntington Beach.
Jason Becher of Anaheim, 46, could get life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted in the 2016 death of his ex-girlfriend Marylou Sarkissian. The special circumstance of lying in wait creates the enhanced penalty.
Prosecutors allege that Becher waited at Sarkissian’s house on Litchfield Drive in the early-morning hours of Dec. 2, 2016, before entering, strangling her and beating her to death.
During the trial, which began April 26, Becher’s public defender Irene Pai has not disputed that Becher caused the death of Sarkissian, who was 50. The defense has argued that it was a sudden act of rage, not a premeditated act.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Janine Madera painted a different picture of Becher and his actions as she addressed jurors Wednesday. She replayed several menacing voicemails left for Sarkissian and her family. Sarkissian filed for a restraining order after an August 2016 incident where she alleged that Becher tried to choke her with a bath towel before she pepper-sprayed him. She also had a security system installed the day before she died.
“If you believe that when he left for downtown Huntington Beach and told his uncle it was going to be a bad day for Marylou, that at that point he had already planned and intended to kill her later on that night, that would be sufficient for premeditation and deliberation,” Madera told jurors. “If you thought, ‘No, actually, I think he created the plan to kill her when he got kicked out of Huntington Beach Beer Co. and the victim didn’t take his call ... that would be premeditation. Or maybe you think, ‘Actually, I think when he got into her backyard waiting for his opportunity to attack, that’s when he established the premeditation and deliberation to kill this victim.’”
“As long as you all agree that the premeditation and deliberation was done before completing the act that caused her death, you don’t have to agree on the exact moment.”
Madera reviewed testimony from a bartender at G’s Boat House and a manager at Huntington Beach Beer Co. Becher and a friend were at both locations on that December night, but were ultimately kicked out around 10:30 p.m.
She alleged that Becher then went to Sarkissian’s home, where he waited outside before entering at 12:15 a.m., when she disarmed the master bedroom sliding door to let her dog out. The door opened and closed multiple times after that between then and 2:24 a.m., according to security records, while, Madera said, Becher was cleaning up after the crime.
“It is December, it is colder ... and this woman is very paranoid and determined to be safe,” Madera said. “She’s not going to leave her master slider open for almost 45 minutes in the middle of the night. That is the point at which the defendant grabs her.”
The front door opened and closed at 2:59 a.m. Sarkissian’s son, Robert, found his mother’s body that afternoon.
Becher drove to his sister’s house in Oregon before turning himself in.
Pai maintained during her portion of the closing arguments that there was plenty of reasonable doubt involved. She told jurors that she believed that Becher was guilty of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, but not first-degree murder, especially with the “lying in wait” special circumstance.
“All of their evidence is circumstantial evidence,” Pai said. “If there are two reasonable interpretations, one that points toward innocence and one that points toward guilt, you must choose the one that points toward innocence.”
Pai noted that Becher had been accusing Sarkissian for months of stealing money off the top from his marijuana business.
“If you believe a reasonable interpretation is that my client wanted to get his money, then that tends to show he did not have an intent to kill her,” Pai said. “He needed her alive to get his money back. By killing her, he lost it all, obviously.”
The closing arguments in his trial are set to resume Thursday morning in Department C35 of Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.