The Justice Files: Slain mother praised

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PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – Belen Perez was baking in her home in 2014 when a noise startled her.

She had moved to Provo to leave a gang-infested neighborhood. Perez had a son that she wanted to protect.

“Ever since I can remember since I was a kid, she was a religious woman,” said her son Carlos Barcelata. “(She was) a very hard working woman.”

On that day in 2014, Jerad Gourdin broke into Perez’s home, used an extension cord and strangled her. Police said he drenched her body in bleach to hide his DNA. Money and jewelry were taken.

“The way they did this to her this was torture, they tortured her,” said Kimberly Bennett back in 2014.

Bonnie Burt was a neighbor of Perez and was at work at the time.

“I got a phone call,” said Burt. “I was at work my son told me our sweet neighbor had been murdered. I couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable.”

Provo police had no answers and the case remains unsolved until August 2018. Police got a tip from an inmate in prison where Gourdin was serving time for another crime. He was eventually charged with Perez’s murder.

Wednesday, at his sentencing there was no mention of an apology. Gourdin objected to the sentencing because he wanted a new attorney.

“I no longer want them and I don’t want them,” Gourdin told the judge.

He left the courtroom before sentencing was handed out after Judge Thomas Low said that was his choice.

He missed hearing about the life of the woman he murdered.

“She sounds like a wonderful person and worked hard all her life to have a loving and stable environment for her son,” said deputy Utah County attorney Lance Bastion.

Even Judge Low said she overcame so many obstacles in her life.

“Belen Perez … lifted herself up from her bootstraps to make a life she did here in Provo,” said Judge Low.

It was Perez’s son who found his mother in the living room.

“It’s been very difficult for me to continue, but I just think that my mom would have wanted just to go on,” said Barceleta.

He asked that Gourdin spend the rest of his life in prison and Judge Low agreed. There would not be a chance of parole after he served the minimum time of 30-plus years.

Finally, after nearly six years justice arrived for Perez and her son who must now carry on without her.”

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