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Jury begins deliberations in Huntington Beach murder trial

Marylou Sarkissian, third from left, is pictured with her three children before her death in December 2016.
(Courtesy of Debra Zdrazil )

A jury began deliberations Thursday in the trial of Jason Becher, who is charged with first-degree murder in the 2016 death of his ex-girlfriend Marylou Sarkissian in her Huntington Beach home.

Becher, 46, of Anaheim, could get life in prison without parole due to the special circumstances charge of lying in wait.

His public defender Irene Pai concluded her closing arguments Thursday at Orange County Superior Courthouse in Santa Ana, before Deputy Dist. Atty. Janet Madera addressed the jurors one final time.

Sarkissian was found dead on Dec. 2, 2016 in her home on Litchfield Drive. The defense in the case is not disputing that Becher was responsible for her death, but Pai reiterated Thursday she believes the evidence supports a charge of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter instead.

Sarkissian, who was 50, had filed for a restraining order against Becher that summer and installed a security system at her home the day before she died. In voicemails played in court, Becher accused her of skimming money from his marijuana sales business and depositing it into her private bank account.

“Is it a reasonable interpretation of the evidence that his plan was to go to her house and get his money back?” Pai said. “Marylou doesn’t want to show him the banking statements, because they reflect that she’s been spending his money and she wants to keep what she has. Is it a reasonable interpretation that she was stressed and anxious because she spent his money, and he was beginning to figure it out? He had to go directly to her for clarification and explanation.”

Pai argued that Becher was provoked, which could lessen the murder charge.

“There is no evidence of a surprise attack,” she said. “No plan to kill, and no surprise attack ... she had to unlock the rear [sliding door] and we know that she was chewing bubble gum at the time. If there was a surprise attack, the duct tape was on [her] and there were blows made, this bubble gum would have blood on it ... That gum stayed in her mouth while they were talking on the bed. That’s not a surprise attack.”

In a 15-minute final address to the jurors, Madera agreed that Becher could have killed Sarkissian quickly if he had wanted to do so. But she argued that Becher wasn’t just interested in killing her, but also making sure that he got the last word.

Duct tape and zip ties were also found at the scene of the crime, which Madera said spoke to the defendant’s mind set when committing the crime.

“All of the theories point toward first-degree murder and lying in wait,” she said. “The law doesn’t require that it be a perfect murder plan, or the best murder plan, or a successful murder plan. It just has to be his murder plan, and it was.”

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