|For Immediate Release
Case # 96NF2113
August 7, 2012
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
FOURTH STRIKER SENTENCED TO 119 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR 1995 KIDNAPPING AND MURDER BY LOCKING WOMAN IN CAR TRUNK AND BURNING HER ALIVE
*Defendant was sentenced to the death penalty but the decision was overturned by the California Supreme Court
SANTA ANA – A fourth striker was sentenced today to 119 years to life in state prison for kidnapping and murdering a woman by locking her in a car trunk and burning her alive. Gary Galen Brents, 51, formerly of Buena Park, was found guilty by a jury June 30, 2000, of one felony count each of special circumstances murder, kidnapping, and aggravated assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and prior prison convictions. The special circumstance sentencing enhancement for murder in the commission of a kidnapping, which made the defendant eligible for the death penalty, was found true. The defendant also faced sentencing enhancements for nine prior convictions in Los Angeles County including three prior strikes for robbery in 1979 and 1984 and assault with a deadly weapon in 1984, and six prior convictions between 1979 and 1992 for grand theft of an automobile, possession of heroin, possession of cocaine for sale, possession of marijuana, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony.
The jury recommended the death penalty for Brents and he was originally sentenced Dec. 15, 2000, but the California Supreme Court reversed the special circumstance decision Feb. 2, 2012, based on a jury instruction error. In lieu of re-trying the penalty phase to pursue the death penalty against Brents, the People determined to proceed with sentencing the defendant to 119 years to life in state prison based on his felony convictions for murder, kidnapping, and assault and his nine prior convictions.
At the time of the crime, Brents was a pimp operating primarily in Anaheim. On the night of Oct. 4, 1995, Brents demanded $100 from 26-year-old Kelly Gordon, which he believed she owed him. When the victim was unable to pay the defendant, Brents became angry and began choking Gordon around the neck with his hands. The defendant then placed Gordon in the trunk of a borrowed car and drove her to a remote location near Lakewood in Los Angeles County. After stopping the car, Brents opened the trunk and poured gasoline on the victim’s body before closing the trunk again. He poured gasoline on the outside of the trunk and lit the car on fire with the victim still alive inside. He murdered Gordon by burning her to death.
The case was originally prosecuted by then-Deputy District Attorney Claudia Silbar. Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit handled the re-sentencing of the defendant.