Brooklyn man gets 25 years to life in prison for strangling his girlfriend to death in Ozone Park

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A Brooklyn man was sentenced for strangling his estranged girlfriend, who had an active order of protection against him, at her Ozone Park home, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Jerome Rivers, 54, was convicted of second-degree murder and criminal contempt last month, marking his fourth felony conviction. Prior to this arrest, Rivers had 66 misdemeanor convictions and was previously adjudicated a level 3 registered sex offender, the highest level.

Rivers was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 25 years to life in prison.

“Unfortunately, after being locked away for assaulting this victim and being barred from contacting her, the defendant was still not deterred,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan. “He committed the absolute worst outcome of domestic violence. He brutally killed his estranged girlfriend.  For this horrific crime, the defendant will remain locked behind bars for the rest of his days.”

According to trial testimony, 50-year-old Gia Pender had a rough relationship with Rivers, which included multiple allegations of domestic abuse. On July 29, 2017, Pender had Rivers arrested in Brooklyn on allegations of attempting to rape her, punching her, choking her and threatening to kill her. Pender was then granted an order of protection against Rivers, barring him from going near her or her residence.

Rivers was released from Rikers Island on Sept. 28, 2017, while the order of protection was still in place. Rivers contacted Pender, saying that he had no place to go and asked to come to her residence in Ozone Park to stay the night.

Prior to his arrival, Pender told a neighbor that “Jerome was coming over” and handed over her wallet, which had credit cards, PIN numbers and her identification. Pender then told the neighbor, “If anything happens to me, give this to my mother.”

Trial testimony states that the next morning, Rivers called 911 at 6 a.m., stating that he woke up to the sound of a “thump” and that he found Pender on the kitchen floor. Officers and first responders arrived at Pender’s home and tried to revive her, however she was ultimately declared dead at the scene.

Rivers then told police that he he woke up to a “thump” and found her on the floor. He claimed alternatively that “she choked on her own saliva” or that she “choked on food.”

An autopsy revealed that Pender had contusions and abrasions to her neck and chin and extensive hemorrhaging in the internal neck muscles, the rear of her tongue and her esophagus. The medical examiner testified that these injuries are consistent with manual strangulation, not consistent with a fall, a medical issue or accidentally choking on saliva or food.

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