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Man convicted of killing after using it to join prison gang

December 18, 2019 GMT

PROVO, Utah (AP) — A Utah man has been convicted of strangling his neighbor after long being suspected of killing her but not charged until authorities learned he brought up the slaying as he tried to join a prison gang.

A jury in Utah County on Tuesday convicted 35-year-old Jerad Dale Gourdin of aggravated murder for financial gain in the killing of 60-year-old Belen Perez of Provo in 2014.

Prosecutors said they got the break in the case when an informant told authorities that Gourdin wanted to join a gang in Utah State Prison in 2018 that required killing someone and asked whether an earlier slaying would count.

“This information provided key evidence linking Gourdin to the death of Perez,” Deputy County Attorney Lance Bastian said.

Perez was found with a stereo power cord around her neck and various chemicals poured on her body, and police believe she was killed when she walked in on Gourdin burglarizing her home.

Gourdin lived in the same neighborhood and had been released from prison about two months before the attack.

He was in prison last year after being convicted of aggravated assault for stabbing and wounding another neighbor with a screwdriver a day before killing Perez.