Judge sentences "Artist Killer" 15 years to life

Jesse Dean Nava found guilty of the murder of La Quinta artist Bernardo Gouthier

Indio, Calif. -  A man who killed an artist in his La Quinta home more than a decade ago was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in prison.

Jesse Dean Nava, 34, was convicted in an April 2013 retrial of second-degree murder in the 1997 shooting death of 43-year-old Bernardo Gouthier, as was co-defendant Jerry Eugene Reynolds, who was previously sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

The defendants, who both represented themselves in the retrial, were initially found guilty of Gouthier's slaying in February 2007, 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 and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. Another co-defendant, Mario Gonzalez, was tried separately, convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Nava and Reynolds were arrested in 2001 in connection with the murder of Gouthier, who was shot on Oct. 25, 1997, at his home in an area of La Quinta known as Sculpture Park, where he displayed his work and that of other artists.  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, adding that Hayton died of a heart attack in 2003 in London before authorities could arrest him.

Clark told jurors that ``greedy men killed Bernardo Gouthier at the behest of an angry, jealous, controlling, immature, rich man.'' The prosecutor said Nava ``went into that home with his confederates ... and shot Bernardo Gouthier four times,'' and that Reynolds was ``the middle man at the behest of that rich man, setting everything in motion.''

Clark said Hayton used Reynolds, his ``go-to guy'' in other matters, to ``exploit ... young men to get the deed done.'' Nava ``blames Mr. Gouthier for his own death,'' but, in fact, shot him in the back ``like a coward,'' the prosecutor said.  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. 

He said 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. 

Reynolds said 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, Clark said.

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 said.

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