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Woman Gets Life for 1998 Murder

At her sentencing, Judy Valot, who insists she's innocent, urges her slain boyfriend's family to find his body and pursue the real killer.

July 23, 2005|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

An Irvine woman was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in prison for killing her boyfriend in 1998 and disposing of his body in the California desert after prosecutors say she became convinced he was cheating on her.

During an emotional hearing in Santa Ana that ended her third trial, Judy Valot, a former forklift driver, told Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey that she did not kill her boyfriend, Peter Theriault, 51. She urged his family to find the real killer.

"I never did anything to Pete. I never pointed a gun [at] him," Valot said, bursting into tears as she addressed about 25 of Theriault's relatives in the gallery.

Prosecutors believe that Valot fatally shot Theriault on Dec. 2, 1998, after an argument in which she accused him of having an affair. His body hasn't been found, but prosecutors think he is buried in the desert near Blythe, where Valot has a trailer and was spotted the day after the killing. She was arrested a week after his disappearance after investigators said they found inconsistencies in her story.

Valot was convicted in 2000 on the same charges of second-degree murder and sentenced, but the verdict was overturned because of juror error. During a second trial in August, jurors deadlocked.

On Friday, relatives pleaded with Valot to disclose Theriault's whereabouts.

"We all know that Judy murdered Pete and she knows that," Theriault's sister Betsy Schlect said. "Give up, Judy. You're guilty. Tell us where Pete is."

Valot said she did not know.

"Look somewhere else. Look for Pete.... Hate me all your life, but you guys shouldn't give up on [finding] Pete," Valot said. "I won't."

His relatives held hands, cried and shook their heads. Some called her a "psychopath."

Valot maintained her innocence and said investigators were lying, statements that Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy called "very laughable, continued denial."

Deputy Public Defender Alan Crivaro filed an appeal after the sentencing, saying there was no physical evidence that Valot had killed her boyfriend.

"She was the last one to see him, but that doesn't mean that she killed him," Crivaro said.

According to court records, Valot grew up in San Diego and got married at 17. The marriage lasted a month. In 1980, she married Craig Valot, but they separated shortly after their daughter was born in 1985. In 1997, she met Theriault, a machinist, while they worked at Ford Motor Co. in Commerce. They dated for six months before she moved into his home with her teenage daughter. Family members said the couple argued often because of what they called Valot's unfounded jealousy.

Theriault, who never missed a day of work in 28 years, planned to retire and leave California to be closer to his sisters.

"She took him from us. I will never understand why," said Schlect, wearing her brother's favorite jean jacket emblazoned with "Vietnam veteran" and Harley-Davidson patches. "I hope you live in living hell behind bars."

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