In 2016, two sisters waited for the justice system.
On Tuesday, Oct. 13, an Orange County Superior Court judge granted a defense motion to delay the trial of Jason Becher, who is accused of beating and strangling his ex-girlfriend Marylou Sarkissian in her Huntington Beach home. The trial is now scheduled for March 1, 2021.
About three months before she died in 2016, Sarkissian and her sister Debbie Zdrazil were granted restraining orders against Becher. They contacted police so many times, they became known as “The Sisters.”
The Sisters said Becher broke the terms of that order, and three months later, while the case was being reviewed by the District Attorney’s Office, Sarkissian was found dead. She died a day after a security system was installed in her house. Prosecutor Janine Madera plans to show a videotape in which a man – allegedly the suspect – can be heard commenting on new security. “How’d that work out for you?” he reportedly said.
The trial, which, if it happens as it is now scheduled, would be almost four and a half years after Sarkissian’s body was found by her teenage son in her bathroom. The defense had originally asked for a May 2021 trial date, but moved off that date in a new motion to the court.
“As much as it pains me to see the matter continued, I find good cause to continue this matter,” said Judge Sheila Hanson.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer had not yet taken over his current position at the time of Sarkissian’s death. He said his office has tried to speed up the process.
“We have objected to the delay and announced ready for trial,” Spitzer said in a prepared statement. “The assigned prosecutor has been working closely with the family, informing them of the request for another defense continuance and arranged for the victim’s family to come to court to make a victim impact statement opposing prolonging the case any further from proceeding to trial.
“Our prosecutor has also worked with the court and the defense to take proactive steps with regard to jury selection and other pretrial matters to minimize further delays.”
The reasons for the most recent delay, Hanson said, will be kept under seal because they are private matters between the defendant and his attorney. Becher is represented by Assistant Public Defender Irene Pai. The case has had 23 hearings in almost four years, most of them to discuss delays. Most recently, the delays have been sought by the defense.
The judge said Tuesday that the pandemic, which shut down courts for more than a month earlier this year, will no longer be an excuse going forward.
Sarkissian’s sister, father, son and nephew were in the courtroom as the delay was granted.
“We had low expectations,” Zdrazil said. “When this happened, I was told it would take five to six years. I try to look at the positives. (With the delay) we can get through the holidays, then this.”
Becher has a history of drug and domestic violence charges. He has been in custody since being arrested Dec. 3, 2016 – the day after the Sarkissian’s death.
Sarkissian was a single mom of three children. Her twins were in middle school when she was killed. They will likely be in college when the case goes to trial.
Debbie Zdrazil will be one of the witnesses in the case, and she knows that the judge will likely not allow her to sit in the courtroom and watch the proceedings (in most cases witnesses are prohibited unless they are testifying).
Zdrazil said Madera will ask the judge to make an exception.
“I want to be there,” Zdrazil said. “I want to know every detail.”
Source: Orange County Register