Convicted murderer, rapist faces death-penalty retrial

A new jury will decide whether a man convicted of raping and killing a pregnant Costa Mesa woman should receive the death penalty or life in prison.

On Monday an Orange County Superior Court judge scheduled a retrial in the penalty phase of Jason Michael Balcolm's case for May 14. The earlier jury deadlocked 10 to 2 on whether to give the 42-year-old the death penalty, which incited Judge Francisco Briseno to declare a mistrial.

Balcom was convicted in March of first-degree murder for sexually assaulting and murdering 22-year-old Malinda Gibbons in 1988.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy sought the penalty phase retrial, finding Balcom's actions — raping Gibbons, who was four to six weeks pregnant, then killing her by stabbing her in the heart — to be exceptionally cruel and warranting the death penalty.

Gibbons had just moved to Costa Mesa from Utah with her husband, Kent. She was unpacking her apartment in the Mediterranean Village complex on Harbor Boulevard when Balcom, then 18, forced entry and assaulted her.

Kent Gibbons returned from work to find his deceased wife bound to their bed by his neckties.

Balcom lived less than a mile from the Gibbons' home with his mother and aunt, at what is now the Costa Mesa Motor Inn.

Balcom was extradited to Orange County while a serving 30- to 50-year sentence in Michigan for a similar crime and, according to Murphy, has a past riddled with similar offenses. Authorities used Balcom's DNA from a national database to link him to Gibbons' slaying.

Requesting that Balcom receive a lifetime sentence without parole, defense attorney Doloris Yost cited a troubled upbringing by a mentally ill mother as a contributing factor to his criminal past.

According to the Orange County Register, this is the first death-penalty trial in the county this year.

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