West Jordan • A Utah man convicted of killing a Sandy mother in her own home two years ago again proclaimed his innocence Monday, as a judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
Cody Alan Reece said the family of 33-year-old Magda Aleman would find no comfort or closure in his imprisonment.
"I’m not the killer," Reece said.
In July, a 3rd District Court jury convicted Reece of killing Aleman, the wife of a Mexican restaurant chain owner and mother of three, on July 13, 2010. Israel Aleman-Gomes, who owns about a dozen Rancherito’s restaurants around the Salt Lake Valley, came home to find his wife covered in blood, dead on a love seat.
Prosecutors say Reece broke into the home, beat the woman with the butt of a handgun and shot her in the forehead at point-blank range.
But at trial, Reece and his defense attorneys said he was a heavy drug user and the victim of unfortunate circumstances. Reece, who had been drinking heavily and using drugs for days before the slaying, said he was in Aleman’s neighborhood looking for mail to steal when he came upon the woman’s home. He said he heard a gunshot, looked in Aleman’s back window and saw the woman dead from what he believed was a suicide.
Reece said he does not remember what happened but that he found himself inside the home, standing over Aleman’s body and noticed he had something on his hand — apparently Aleman’s blood — which he wiped on his shirt. That’s when Reece said he saw a man with a gun. Reece ran from the house, jumped in his car and sped away through Sandy, causing a car crash and then entering several more homes.
As prosecutor Peter Leavitt held up a crime scene photo of an "absolutely atrocious and brutal" murder, Reece interrupted.
"How many times is he going to go over this s---?" the defendant said.
Following another outburst, officers removed Reece from the courtroom, after he struggled with three men who slammed him against a door.
"I’m sick of hearing his lies," Reece said after a break, asking to stay out of the courtroom while the prosecutor spoke. "I had to sit through the whole trial. I’m sick of hearing him. …There’s nothing he’s going to say that will change the fact that I’m innocent of this crime."
Throughout the hearing, Judge Bruce Lubeck weighed whether to give Reece a chance at parole after serving at least 25 years behind bars. The 32-year-old Reece was sentenced earlier this month to 15 years in federal prison for illegally possessing firearms, and he would be in his 70s before he could hope for parole.
"There’s a lot of time between now and then for Mr. Reece to behave or misbehave, to show that he has rehabilitated or not, to show if he’s the kind of person who deserves parole or not," defense attorney Lisa Remal said.
But Leavitt, the prosecutor, said Reece had proven himself a threat.
Reece was released from prison in April 2003 and arrested just two months later for a parole violation. In 2010, out on bail and knowing he was a suspect in Aleman’s murder, Reece was arrested twice in eight days, both times with guns.
"I think we’re lucky that we’re only here on one homicide in this case," Leavitt said.
In the end, Lubeck said those arrests weighed too heavily against a shot at parole. The judge called Reece "dangerous to people."
"I don’t do this lightly," Lubeck said. "It’s an extreme sentence, but in my view it’s an extreme crime."
Before he knew his fate, Reece said he would "never see daylight" with either sentence.
"It’s all the same to me," he said. "I know at night I don’t need to pray for my soul."
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