WEST JORDAN — Prosecutor Peter Leavitt stood before the judge trying to articulate just how brutal and senseless the murder was that claimed Magda Aleman's life.
"What we saw was an absolutely atrocious and brutal crime," Leavitt told 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck. "Magda Aleman was inside her home in her beautiful neighborhood in Sandy, Utah. ... This is a woman whose kids were across the street. She hadn't done wrong to anybody. She didn't even know Mr. Reece."
Cody Alan Reece, 32, did not like what the prosecutor was saying. He interrupted Leavitt multiple times Monday, refuting his statements and expressing his frustration. Court bailiffs went to remove him from the courtroom, but he thrashed and struggled against them even as they took him back to a holding area.
Lubeck called for a break and asked defense attorney Lisa Remal to go and calm her client. She returned about 10 minutes later and said Reece did not want to come back for the remainder of Leavitt's statements.
"I'm sick of his lying," Reece said of the prosecutor. "There's nothing he's going to say that's going to change the fact that I'm innocent of this crime."
But Lubeck told him he agreed with the jury's guilty verdict and ordered Reece to spend the rest of his life in prison — without parole.
"I don't do that with any joy or lightly, but as I said, and I don't mean to demean you, but for some reason you are dangerous to people and that's the only way to protect society," the judge said.
Magda Aleman, a 33-year-old housewife and mother of three, was brutally shot and murdered in her Sandy home on July 13, 2010. She was found lying face down on a couch in her home at 11436 Tiger Tail Circle by her husband, Israel, when he returned from work. Her three children, then ages 9, 7 and 3, were at the home of a neighbor.
Prosecutors said Reece was near Aleman's home committing a string of thefts when he entered her home through an open garage to burglarize it. Reece didn't expect to find Aleman and beat her and shot her in the head before fleeing. Aleman's blood was found on Reece's shirt, and he was arrested in the neighborhood shortly after the murder.
When the prosecutor finished his statements, Reece returned to the courtroom and repeated his assertions that he was innocent.
"I expected that the family would be here today," he said. "I wanted to give my condolences. This is absolutely tragic and harsh and horrendous and horrific all at the same time and it has been for my family, too."
He referred to his explanation at trial, saying he heard gunshots in Aleman's home and went inside to see what happened. He claimed he saw Aleman dead and an unknown man, which prompted him to run.
"No closure or retribution is going to happen today for the fact that I'm not the killer," he said. "I'm not going to beg or plead with the court because my life is already taken. Do what you need to do because I know at night I don't need to pray for my soul. ... I have a clear conscience."
Leavitt said Reece is a danger to the community, telling the judge that before Reece was charged with the murder, police twice found him in possession of firearms.
"Mr. Reece would have the court believe these guns were for his protection," Leavitt said. "I think we're lucky that we're only here on one homicide in this case."
Remal argued that the prosecution's recommendation of life without parole was too harsh. She told the judge that Reece still has 15 years to serve in federal prison for other crimes and, coupled with her recommended 25 years to life sentence, he wouldn't be out of prison until he was in his 70s.
She said her client showed a lot of promise in his youth, but struggled in a single-parent home, especially after his family moved to a new school district where he became involved with people who used alcohol and drugs.
"Our system is not perfect, so I think it's unfair to punish somebody who claims innocence even if you don't think they're innocent," Remal said.
The judge repeated, sincerely and slowly, that he did not understand the crime, questioning what could have made Reece such a dangerous person.
"It's hard for me to understand how we could get to this point," Lubeck said. "I don't know if there's a certain meanness in the world, but from my perspective, I look at this and I just don't understand it."2 comments on this story
He said the jury found Reece guilty — not only of aggravated murder, but also aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person and obstruction of justice, second-degree felonies. He ordered Reece to serve five years to life in prison on the burglary charge and two terms of one to 15 years on those charges. Those would run concurrent to the life in prison sentence, but consecutive to the federal prison sentence.
"I think you're a danger to the community and I don't know why," Lubeck said. "I wish I didn't have to say that ... but I think the nature of this thing — there was no struggle. This woman was shot for no apparent reason."