Relationships are complicated and sometimes couples stay together longer than they should, despite knowing they are far from being a perfect match.
Marylou Sarkissian had been dating Jason Becher on and off for five years. The 50-year-old mum-of-three, who lived in Huntington Beach, California, knew that Jason wasn’t the reliable, loving boyfriend she deserved. But something kept bringing them back together. And each time, it only got worse.
Marylou was overprotective of everyone, but not enough of herself. She was a pharmaceutical representative, while Jason cultivated marijuana illegally and sold it – making large sums of cash. He would keep some of the money at Marylou’s house, where she had a safety deposit box.
It’s unclear exactly what the arrangement was, but the money would become a huge issue between them. Tensions grew and eventually the relationship turned violent.
In August 2016, Marylou made her fear of Jason public when she got a five-year restraining order out against him. Then on 28 August, Marylou called 911. She said that Jason had pushed and shoved her into the bathroom where he’d then choked her with a towel.
Jason said an argument had escalated after they’d rowed about Marylou having money that belonged to him. Despite the toxic way their relationship was going, they had history together that was hard to ignore.
Marylou and Jason met up in a hotel in early November. Maybe it was a last-ditch attempt to make things work – but again, it ended in violence. Marylou told the police that Jason had attacked her again.
Jason texted Marylou asking for forgiveness. He told her he wanted to “grow old” with her. “I want to take care of you for the rest of your life,” he wrote. But Marylou was finally ready to walk away.
“Why can’t you control your violence?” she messaged him. “My cheek is all swollen and I have bruises everywhere.”
Marylou told Jason, “You can’t terrorise me, choke me, suffocate me with a pillow and think it’s OK.” Jason responded with furious voicemails demanding she return his money. “I ain’t playing f***ing games with you any more,” he said.
Friends and family of Marylou knew that her relationship had turned very sour but they were about to discover just how frightened she was becoming. Jason was leaving her aggressive voicemails, accusing her of cheating on him – and stealing his drug money.
“I know about six times you cheated on me,” he said in one voicemail. “And then you ripped me off at the end… for like $500,000.”
Marylou blocked him.
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And on 1 December, she had a technician install a security system with motion-triggered cameras in her home.
That night, Marylou was at home with her dog. She had no clue that by 11pm, Jason was outside, lying in wait in her backyard. His phone records placed him there.
The next day, Marylou’s family were worried that they hadn’t heard from her. Then the police received word that Jason had made a confession to a relative, who had convinced him to hand himself in.
When officers went to Marylou’s home, they found her dead in a pool of blood.
Investigators determined that Jason had tried and failed to break into Marylou’s home with a crowbar. So then he waited. He’d lived with Marylou and knew her routine. At 12.15am, she let her dog out of the sliding door to her bedroom. Jason used it as a chance to get inside.
He attacked Marylou so violently that she sustained multiple rib fractures and a broken nose. There was also evidence that Marylou had been strangled.
When the police reviewed the footage on Marylou’s new cameras, they saw Jason spotting the boxes for the security system in her kitchen after the killing.
Jason could be heard saying, “New home security system? How did that f***ing work out for you?” – mocking Marylou for her unsuccessful effort to protect herself from him, as she lay dead.
About 30 minutes later, Jason was seen leaving with a garbage bag and it looked as if he’d got changed. At his home, the police found a bag of bloody clothes. Jason had then driven to a relative’s home in Oregon and they’d convinced him to hand himself in to the authorities. The trial finally started this year – over four years after the killing.
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Prosecutors outlined the growing hostility that Jason showed towards his ex-girlfriend. The court heard the aggressive voicemails he left her, and some to her family – mainly accusations about her taking his money.
The prosecution showed that Marylou had made large cash deposits for five years into a bank account that she had set up for Jason. From 2013 through to 2016, Marylou had spent $261,000 more than her reported income, although some of the money had come from her father and child support.
It was possible the pair had an agreement in which Marylou shared in some of the drug profits, in return for helping to get the money into an account.
Jason’s defence said there was no question that he had killed Marylou but that there was never an intent to kill. “People who plan a murder and plan not to be apprehended afterward usually don’t turn themselves in,” they said.
They said that Jason made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling marijuana, but he’d grown up in poverty and was frugal so the money was important to him.
They also argued that he’d suffered a brain injury in a car crash he’d been in when he was 12 and subsequently struggled to control his temper. The court were told that Jason had gone to the home to retrieve the money that was his.
His lawyers claimed he acted out of rage and should be convicted of a lesser charge of second-degree murder, or voluntary manslaughter. “His plan that night was to try to talk to Marylou or get his money back, and that is all he thought of,” they said.
But the jury heard testimony that revealed he had a prior conviction for domestic violence against another girlfriend in 2005. There was also the restraining order in place, threatening messages and Marylou’s newly installed security cameras.
Hours before the attack, Jason had told an uncle, “It’s going to be a bad day in Huntington Beach for Marylou.”
The prosecution said that Jason had deliberately strangled and beaten his ex to death, after lying in wait outside her home. “It wasn’t just about killing her, it was about making sure he got the last word,” they said.
In May, Jason was found guilty of first-degree murder. The jurors also found him guilty of a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait.
A month later, Jason, now aged 46, was sentenced to life without the chance of parole.
The judge added another five years to his sentence due to a prior conviction for domestic violence against another victim.
“Mr Becher, it is still not lost on the court that as you sit here before us it’s as if nothing here fazes you,” the judge said. “You have not shown one bit of remorse. In fact, you look as though you don’t even understand the seriousness of this offence.”
Marylou’s family said they were relieved there was finally justice but were frustrated that, despite telling police about Jason’s threatening behaviour, Marylou had still died at his hands.
They said the system had failed Marylou. She had tried her best to protect herself but in the end, the cameras that were supposed to keep her safe captured her final moments.
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