A long history of mental illness, family troubles and criminal offenses preceded the day Joshua T. Jones murdered an Aiken Public Safety officer. He was later charged with killing the girlfriend whom he shared an apartment with in Augusta.
A psychiatric evaluation and detailed family and social chronologies entered as evidence in court document Jones’ family history of schizophrenia and his troubled childhood and adolescence.
Jones, 28, was sentenced to life in prison without parole Feb. 3 after pleading guilty but mentally ill in the 2012 slaying of Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers. Court psychiatrist Donna Schwartz-Watts diagnosed Jones a schizophrenic.
Rogers was shot in the head about 7:30 a.m. Jan. 28, 2012, after responding to a call of suspicious activity at Eustis Park. Investigators said Jones had gone to the park after fleeing the apartment he shared with Cayce Vice. Police later found Vice shot to death in her bed.
Jones is incarcerated at South Carolina’s Kirkland Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison with mental health facilities. He also faces murder charges in Georgia for Vice’s death.
Boyd Young, Jones’ attorney, said his client’s well-documented and substantial mental health history got to a “dire point.” More intervention could have been possible although it’s difficult to say what resources were available to the family, he said.
“Once I knew Josh wasn’t faking it and we had a family history and documents to support a schizophrenic diagnosis, I immediately used it to resolve the case,” Young said.
Jones’ troubles began long before Rogers’ murder. A social history chronology shows Jones had no prenatal care and a tumor at birth. As a child, Jones’ parents divorced after several domestic incidents.
Six months before the incident, Jones tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head and was sent to Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services in Aiken.
He was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and discharged two weeks later.
Court documents state that he was encouraged to return to the facility “if symptoms warrant.” Jones was cited as saying he did not continue taking prescribed antidepressants “because he could not afford to get refills.”
More than a decade earlier, he had received some mental evaluations but the extent was not documented.
Following Jones’ 2001 expulsion from North Augusta High School for bringing a gun to school, he was committed to the Midlands Regional Evaluation Center, a state facility that makes court-ordered evaluation for juveniles.
The facility was to make “recommendations regarding the most appropriate custodial or correctional care and any other interventions that might hold him accountable for the current offense and reduce the likelihood of future offending,” according to the social history.
Between 2002 and 2011, Jones committed several criminal offenses, including stabbing his father. Also during that period, he worked several jobs and earned about $40,000 one year.
In the psychiatric evaluation, Schwartz-Watts reported that Jones heard voices and hallucinated. He was not observed sleeping in the Aiken County Detention Center for nearly a month after he was arrested and he stood on his feet so long they became swollen.
The court documents show that Jones’ maternal great-grandmother and grandmother were institutionalized for mental illness and several other cousins and extended relatives suffered from mental health issues or addictions.
On Feb. 28, Jones was involuntarily committed to the Bryan Psychiatric Hospital, a South Carolina mental health facility, for chewing on his wrists while in jail. He was discharged fifteen days later.
During a March 13, 2012, Probate Court hearing while Jones was committed to Bryan, his parents told the judge there was no follow-up after he was discharged from Aurora. His father was never told a diagnosis, he testified.