One of two men accused in the murder-for-hire of a La Quinta artist will argue his case before a jury today.
Jesse Dean Nava and Jerry Eugene Reynolds, who are both representing themselves, are charged in the Oct. 25, 1997, murder of Bernardo Gouthier.
The defendants were convicted in February 2007 of murder, with 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.
Nava gave his opening statement at the beginning of the retrial and Reynolds reserved his for the start of the defense's case, which is scheduled to start this morning.
Gouthier, 43, was shot to death in the front yard of 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, allegedly hired Reynolds to have Gouthier killed. Hayton and Barr, who had a young son, were involved in a contentious divorce, Deputy District Attorney Scot Clark said.
"Mr. Reynolds agreed, for a lot of money, to kill a man ... Mr. Reynolds, in turn, subcontracted (the killing) to Mr. Nava and his associates for less money," Clark alleged.
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 alleged.
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 and Marohn told police in corroborating interviews that they were paid to go to Gouthier's home to kill him, according to the prosecutor.
Nava told jurors he shot Gouthier to defend himself, and Marohn's testimony would support that.
"You're going to hear from the star witness, somebody who was there, that it was not an execution-style murder. He was shot as he was attacking me," Nava said.
He alleged that Marohn also "tailored" his story to the prosecution's case, and told the jury there were 'inconsistencies" in his and other witnesses' statements.
The defendant said he and the other men went to Gouthier's house to collect money, not kill him. There was also no evidence of a murder for hire, he said.
Hayton died of a heart attack in 2003 in London, before authorities could arrest him, Clark said.
Nava and Reynolds are being held without bail.