Two men found guilty, again, in the murder of a La Quinta artist
Two men were convicted today of second-degree murder in the October 1997 death of an artist slain in his La Quinta home.
Sentencing is scheduled June 7 for Jesse Dean Nava and Jerry Eugene Reynolds, who were retried for the murder of 43-year-old Bernardo Gouthier. Jurors deliberated for about two days before reaching the verdicts.
The defendants, who both represented themselves in the trial, were convicted in Gouthier's death in February 2007, and jurors found true a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, but their convictions were overturned in 2008 by an appeals court panel due to a jury selection error.
A third man, Michael Marohn, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in December 2006 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Another co-defendant, Mario Gonzalez, was tried separately, convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gouthier was shot on Oct. 25, 1997, at his La Quinta home in an area known as Sculpture Park, where he displayed his work and that of other artists.
Nava, 32, and Reynolds, 57, were arrested in 2001 in connection with the murder.
Pattison Hayton, the estranged husband of Gouthier's live-in girlfriend, Kathy Barr, hired Reynolds to have Gouthier killed, according to the prosecution. Hayton and Barr, who had a young son, were involved in a contentious divorce, Deputy District Attorney Scot Clark said.
"We're here because greedy men killed Bernardo Gouthier at the behest of an angry, jealous, controlling, immature, rich man," Clark said in his closing argument last week. "We're here because Jesse Nava went into that home with his confederates ... and shot Bernardo Gouthier four times. We're here because Jerry Reynolds is the middle man at the behest of that rich man, setting everything in motion."
Clark told jurors that Hayton used Reynolds, his "go-to guy" in other matters, to "exploit ... young men to get the deed done."
He said Nava "blames Mr. Gouthier for his own death," but shot him in the back "like a coward."
Nava said he went to collect payment for a debt owed to him.
"I had no premeditation or deliberation to kill this man. There was no murder for hire," Nava told jurors in his closing argument.
He said the special circumstance allegation didn't apply to him because he didn't intend to kill Gouthier and didn't benefit financially.
"If it was for financial gain I would have shot him, got my finances and left . . . but it escalated," Nava said.
He said he does owe a "debt to society," and if jurors decided to convict him, it should be for second-degree murder.
Reynolds said in his closing argument that Nava and Marohn were high on drugs at the time, and Nava entered Gouthier's house to get money or stolen artwork.
According to the prosecution, Nava, Marohn and Gonzalez went to Gouthier's home in a truck supplied by Hayton while Barr was out having dinner with friends, and entered the victim's home as he was getting ready to leave to meet Barr.
Gouthier, who was forced to his knees in his bedroom, tried to get away and was shot four times by Nava, once in the neck and three times in the back, according to Clark.
Reynolds, who worked on the air conditioning at Hayton's home in PGA West in La Quinta, was at Hayton's house the days before and after the killing, and he received a large stock transfer and cashier's checks totaling roughly $55,000 from Hayton, the prosecutor alleged.
In a recorded phone conversation, Reynolds told his father-in-law he was wanted for murder and said he was a "go-between," Clark said.
Nava testified that he, Marohn and Gonzalez went to Gouthier's house to collect money or property to pay a debt. Gouthier told the men to leave, and Marohn stepped forward with a Taser. Nava moved to take it from him, and Gouthier jumped up and started yelling, Nava said.
"He kind of went down in a football stance to kind of hit me with his shoulder maybe, and that's when Michael yelled, `Shoot him, shoot him,"' Nava said. "I closed my eyes and just squeezed the gun."
He said he later told his daughter's mother and a friend that he'd shot a man, and Marohn's father later told him, "It's bigger than you think it is."
"He said, `The guy going down for this is Jerry (Reynolds). He used you guys; you guys didn't know better,"' Nava said.
Hayton died of a heart attack in 2003 in London, before authorities could arrest him, Clark said.
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