Jury convicts man in 1988 rape, murder case

Closing a nearly 24-year-old cold case, an Orange County jury on Monday convicted a man of raping and killing a pregnant newlywed in Costa Mesa, prosecutors said.

The jury found that Jason Michael Balcom, 41, sexually assaulted and then stabbed 22-year-old Malinda Gibbons in her Costa Mesa apartment in July 1988. Balcom had been serving time in Michigan for another rape when authorities linked him to the murder.

The night of the slaying, Balcom entered the apartment Gibbons shared with her new husband, Kent. She was home alone. Prosecutors contend that Balcom bound her with her husband's neckties, raped her and stabbed her in the chest.

He then fled with her wedding ring and purse.

Gibbons was four to six weeks pregnant at the time of the attack, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

Balcom, who was 18 at the time, lived in a Costa Mesa motel with his mother and aunt about a quarter of a mile from the Gibbonses. Later, he moved with his mother to Michigan, where he was convicted of rape in 2004, according to prosecutors.

That year his DNA was entered into a national database, which linked him to Gibbons' death.

During opening statements, Balcom's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Thomas J. Lo, told jurors that Balcom was guilty of the murder and rape, and that he got a knife from the apartment's dishwasher to intimidate Gibbons because she put up a fight.

The Gibbonses had moved to Costa Mesa from Utah just prior to the attack. Prosecutors said two days before Gibbons was killed, Balcom had raped another woman.

Balcom was released from juvenile hall weeks prior to killing Gibbons.

The D.A. is seeking the death penalty in the case. Testimony in the sentencing phase was set to begin Monday afternoon.

— Lauren Williams and Joseph Serna

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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