GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Marcus Bebb-Jones, a British professional gambler who admitted to killing his wife in 1997, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Wednesday by District Judge Daniel Petre.
But Bebb-Jones will instantly have his sentence reduced by approximately three and a half years, the amount of time he spent in jail awaiting trial. He was arrested in England and jailed in 2009, extradited to the U.S., and spent a total of 1,261 days in different jails.
Addressing Judge Daniel Petre during the sentenced hearing, Bebb-Jones apologized to the family of his late wife, and to the authorities who tracked him down and put him on trial.
“I didn’t intend to kill Sabrina,” he told the judge. “But what I did was wrong, and I ask forgiveness.”
Bebb-Jones, 49, confessed in February to killing his wife, Vietnamese-born Sabrina Bebb-Jones, “in the heat of passion,” as part of a plea bargain signed with prosecutors.
At the time of the killing, the two operated a small hotel in Grand Junction and were in close contact with her family, who lived in Las Vegas, Nev.
After killing his wife, authorities said, Bebb-Jones fled to England with approximately $250,000 in proceeds from the sale of the hotel and the couple’s home, and with their young son, Daniel.
While in England, according to testimony on Wednesday, Bebb-Jones gained some fame as a professional gambler, even winning a pot of £90,000 in one poker tournament.
Over three hours of often tearful testimony on Wednesday, along with arguments by attorneys for the defense and the prosecution, the two sides painted very different pictures of Bebb-Jones.
In preparation for the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, Bebb-Jones reportedly submitted a short written statement about the incident, in which he claimed to have killed his wife by striking or choking her while they were fighting in their minivan as they drove home after a trip to Dinosaur National Monument.
The defense maintained that, consistent with his guilty plea, Bebb-Jones did not kill his 31-year-old wife after planning it out and waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
Instead, according to defense attorneys Matt Morriss and Tina Fang, what happened was a spur-of-the moment “act of rage.
“This was a couple that had fights, and sometimes those fights got pretty explosive,” said Fang, but “they loved each other.”
After the killing, according to his attorneys, Bebb-Jones panicked, drove to a remote site along the Douglas Pass Road (U.S. Highway 139) northwest of Grand Junction, and dumped her body.
Prosecutors Scott Turner of the Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s office, however, portrayed Bebb-Jones as having planned the murder of his wife because the two were having marital problems and Sabrina wanted a divorce.
If that happened, Turner argued, Bebb-Jones might have faced deportation and loss of contact with the couple’s son, Daniel, who was 3 years old at the time his mother disappeared.
Several members of Sabrina Bebb-Jones’ family tearfully condemned Bebb-Jones and asked the judge to pass down the maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
Daniel, who is 19 today, reportedly wrote to the court to ask that his father receive the minimum sentence allowed under the plea bargain, 10 years, as did Bebb-Jones’ mother, who lives in England.