'How dare he murder her': Neighbor charged with cold case murder of Provo woman

Photo: Carlos Barcelata

(KUTV) – For years, Provo police detectives quietly suspected Jerad Gourdin, 34, killed his 60-year-old neighbor Belen Perez by strangling her with an extension cord and pouring bleach on her body.

Police and prosecutors announced Monday that Gourdin has now been charged with her murder.

“Much of what we had in the beginning pointed to Mr. Gourdin, and at this point we are confident that he’s the individual who committed this offense,” Utah County prosecutor Lance Bastian said at a joint press conference with Provo police.

The break detectives were waiting for appears to have come in the form of a recent jailhouse confession.

Gourdin has been in prison for stabbing a neighbor with a screwdriver the day after Perez’s May 2014 murder.

“During his time in prison, Gourdin approached another inmate about possible initiation into a gang. Knowing initiation required a killing, Gourdin asked if a previous incident could satisfy that requirement,” a charging document states.

The inmate with whom he allegedly had that conversation went to authorities.

“The information provided to law enforcement would not have been publicly or otherwise available, outside of contact with Gourdin,” court documents say.

At the time of the murder, Belen’s body was doused in bleach, which, according to court documents, destroyed any hope of obtaining DNA evidence at the scene.

Provo Police connected the jailhouse confession to circumstantial evidence that appears to link Gourdin to the murder.

The month before Perez’s murder, Gourdin was released from prison and moved into Bonnie Burt’s home just two doors away from the Perez home on 50 North in west Provo.

Burt spoke to 2News Monday afternoon and recounted Gourdin’s actions after Perez’s body was discovered.

“He was standing on my bed, watching through the window and trying to get a glimpse of what was going on,” Burt said. “He was real sketchy.”

Burt said she later saw Gourdin burning things in the backyard. She and several other witnesses told Provo detectives about Gourdin’s actions after the murder.

“It was really hard to come to grips with it because he was sleeping on my couch,” Burt said.

Charging documents say Gourdin’s girlfriend at the time reported he got into the shower fully clothed on the day of Perez’s murder.

“[Gourdin] took two showers, the first of which lasted approximately 45 minutes, though Gourdin told [the girlfriend] he was just washing his face,” a charging document says.

The girlfriend also told detectives that Gourdin asked her to turn off the TV turning a newscast where Perez’s murder was mentioned, according to court documents.

The next day, Gourdin got into a dispute with a neighbor and stabbed him with a screwdriver. Gourdin was sentenced to prison for that incident.

Detectives questioned Gourdin multiple times about Perez’s murder in 2014. According to court documents, his story about having contact with her changed multiple times.

He denied involvement in the murder, but admitted in an interview that he shook Perez’s hand and stepped inside her home, according to court documents.

Gourdin’s prison sentence for the stabbing is set to expire in May 2019, but if convicted of Perez’s murder, he could face life in prison.

“She definitely didn’t deserve this at all,” Perez’s son, Carlos Barcelata, told 2News.

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Barcelata chose to stay in the same home where his mother died. Barcelata said these last four years have been a nightmare.

“At least in a nightmare you wake up and I feel like I’m still in it, I’m not waking up from it,” he said.

Since her death, detectives thought Perez likely walked into her home and surprised a burglar.

Burt said she thought that theory made sense.

“I thought to myself, 'I bet she was out watering and he came in,'” Burt said. “How dare he murder someone that I knew, a neighbor of mine, who did nothing. How dare he.”

A court date for Gourdin has not yet been set.

Gourdin’s brother, Jesse, is currently serving prison time for the 2017 shooting death of a man in downtown Provo.

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