KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Besham Sugrim was found guilty of murdering a Kalamazoo prostitute eight years ago, based largely on testimony from his wife, daughter and another prostitute who put him at the scene that night.
Linda Gibson was beaten and killed in an industrial area of Kalamazoo on Sept. 14, 2003. The case remained unsolved until Sugrim was arrested for beating his 11-year-old daughter. At that time, his wife, Bernadette Sugrim, came forward and told authorities he confided to her he killed Gibson, but threatened to harm her and their children if she said anything to anyone.
The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon. It took them must over five hours to reach a verdict.
The prosecution brought a number of witnesses to the stand during their part of the trial, but the defense did not put anyone on the stand.
Instead, in his closing arguments Sugrim's attorney Robert Champion said 95% of the evidence presented by the prosecution has nothing to do with the murder of Gibson. He told the jury that they could not convict Sugrim of murder based on the fact that Sugrim has committed other "bad acts."
But the jury disagreed, and found Sugrim guilty of first-degree (premeditated) murder.
Reactions varied in the courtroom as the verdict was read. Besham Sugrim sat silently, as he had through most of the trial. Gibson's family wept and Bernadette Sugrim was obviously relieved.
"I am just too shaken up and emotional. I am relieved," Bernadette Sugrim told 24 Hour News 8 after the trial.
Throughout the trial a crew from NBC's "Dateline" has been working on an upcoming episode of the program.
11 of 12 jurors assembled to speak with the "Dateline" crew about the case. They all agree on what tipped the scale:
"Bernadette's testimony," the jurors told "Dateline." "It kind of helped solidify stuff. She knew so many things about the murder when it happened. You could tell that she had a very sharp recollection of things."
"I know the part that really struck home for me is when she said the he would kill me," said another juror. "It was just very believable."
Jurors said listening to the details of the case shook them up.
"You lose sleep," said one juror. "I am not sure who slept much in the last couple of weeks."
"It is very emotional," agreed another juror. "It makes you take a whole different look at your own life. It makes you appreciate what you've got a whole lot more."
Because he was convicted of first-degree murder, Sugrim will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced in April.
It's not yet known when the Dateline episode will air.
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
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