The Hephzibah man accused of killing his parents and little brother pleaded not guilty Tuesday during the first of what will be a series of pretrial hearings in his death penalty case.
Ryan Jones, 26, is accused of the shooting deaths of Roosevelt Jones, 64, Edna Jones, 64, and Russell Jones, 20, whose partially burned and dismembered bodies were found May 21 in a field behind Deer Chase Elementary School.
Tuesday was Jones’ first appearance in Richmond County Superior Court. Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet, who is assigned to preside over the case, and the attorneys went through the initial, routine procedures required in death penalty cases in Georgia.
Jones sat quietly in the orange-and-white striped jail uniform, cuffs and shackles, speaking only once, when Overstreet asked if he had any complaints about his defense attorneys.
“I’m fine with what they are doing right now,” he said.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said she anticipates having a complete report from Richmond County sheriff’s investigators within a couple of weeks, but there will be reports by outside agencies that may take longer to receive.
Attorneys Ryan Swingle and Adam Levin of the state’s Capital Defender office will wait until they can review discovery before filing any defense motions.
A motion to have a mental evaluation of Jones was withdrawn Tuesday, although it may be filed again by his attorneys.
Wright’s notice of the intention to seek a death sentence lists the following statutory aggravating circumstances: Each of the homicides was committed while Jones was allegedly engaged in the slaying of the other victims; each slaying was “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated battery to the victim”; and the slaying of Edna Jones was committed to take the victim’s personal property.
If a jury finds Jones guilty of murder, they will be asked to determine punishment – life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, or death. To impose death, the jury must also find that at least one aggravating circumstance is true beyond a reasonable doubt.