LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former Las Vegas Strip performer was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder for killing and dismembering his dancer ex-girlfriend in a closely watched case that offered a lurid glimpse behind the scenes of the Sin City stage community.
Jason Omar Griffith sat motionless as the verdict was read in Clark County District Court, but blew a kiss to his mother, Charlene Davis, as he was handcuffed to be taken to jail.
Defense attorney Abel Yanez characterized Griffith’s reaction as “numb. Not upset, not happy.”
The jury deliberated for about 14 hours over two days after hearing nine days of testimony about the strangulation death of Deborah Flores Narvaez during a Dec. 12, 2010, argument at Griffith’s home.
Flores’ sister Celeste Flores Narvaez sobbed into her mother’s shoulder as the verdict was read. She had said she wanted Griffith to be convicted of first-degree murder. The family left the courthouse without speaking with reporters.
Griffith’s defense attorneys said they will appeal, and Yanez added that his client was not the person the killing suggested he was.
Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo said he respected the verdict and understood it was difficult for jurors to decide guilt in domestic violence cases.
He also said he expected Griffith to receive the maximum 10 years to life in prison at sentencing July 23.
“You don’t get to dismember a body and not serve life in prison,” DiGiacomo said.
Griffith could also get a definite 10- to 25-year sentence. He could have faced up to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder.
Deborah Flores’ disappearance in mid-December 2010 drew intense attention for almost a month before Griffith’s housemate, Louis Colombo, led police to her dismembered remains in tubs of concrete in a vacant house.
The trial was a tale of sex, lies, betrayal and violence between two passionate and ambitious Las Vegas Strip dancers.
Griffith spent four days testifying that Flores’ death was self-defense. He said he grabbed her from behind with his arms around her neck when he thought she was reaching for a purse that may have contained a gun. No weapon was found. He said he panicked afterward and asked Colombo to help dispose of the body.
DiGiacomo derided Griffith’s self-defense claim as a fabrication and said he did nothing to resuscitate Flores.
Griffith, 35, is originally from Brooklyn, New York. He went by the name “Blu” as a performer in the Cirque du Soleil show “Love,” based on Beatles music at The Mirage resort.
He testified that he juggled girlfriends and sexual acquaintances before and after he met Flores at a football halftime show in November 2009.
Flores, who went by Debbie, moved to Las Vegas from Maryland. She worked her way from go-go club work to a stage role in the racy “Fantasy” revue at the Luxor.
Evidence showed that by the time they became intimate in early 2010, Flores thought their relationship was monogamous. But Griffith was meeting several women for casual sex and pursuing Agnes Roux, a performer in the Cirque show “Zumanity” at the New York-New York hotel.
Griffith testified that his relationship with Flores had movie-style “Fatal Attraction” characteristics. He said she stalked, threatened, harassed and assaulted him when he tried to limit their time together, and that no one took him seriously despite more than a dozen calls to police for help.
Prosecutor Michelle Fleck said Griffith fanned Flores’ anger by deceiving her about his sexual relationships, pulling away after accompanying her to an abortion clinic in May, then resuming their intimacy about the time of her 31st birthday in early July. The two continued an off-and-on relationship until her death.
Flores had a temper, and several of Griffith’s friends and co-workers testified that she became violent when she was angry – drawing stares and sometimes security officers during outbursts in public places.
Roux testified that she broke up with Griffith after learning that he was sleeping with other Cirque dancers. She said she told Griffith in early December 2010 they couldn’t be together if he was still seeing Flores.
On the witness stand, Griffith testified the fatal argument developed after Flores told him she was pregnant for the second time in about six months and wanted another abortion. He said it escalated after Flores demanded he quit seeing Roux and devote his full attention to her.
Flores’ arm hit his face, Griffith said, as she reached past him toward her purse. Griffith said he grabbed her from behind, fell backward to the floor and held tightly until she stopped struggling.
Colombo testified he helped entomb and move the remains. He received immunity from prosecution before leading police to the tubs of concrete on Jan. 8, 2011.
Griffith was the one who sawed Flores’ legs from her torso, Colombo said. Griffith said it was Colombo.