AIKEN — Joshua T. Jones shuffled into a hearing room at the Aiken County Detention Center on Monday morning, his face fixed in a teeth-baring snarl. The 26-year-old suspect stared wildly around the courtroom as the jailers at each elbow guided him to stand in front of Magistrate Judge Donna Williamson.
Jones was there to face charges in Saturday’s slaying of Aiken Master Cpl. Sandra Rogers, but the hearing was largely a formality.
It was Williamson’s job to set bond for the weapons possession charge only, so there was no chance that Jones would leave the jail. It wasn’t in the judge’s power to set bond for the murder charge in the Aiken slaying, nor could she have released him because he also faces murder charges in Augusta in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend, 21-year-old Cayce Vice.
Police say that Jones shot Vice at her Washington Road apartment late Friday or early Saturday. He was next spotted in his father’s BMW at Aiken’s Eustis Park. About 7:30 a.m. Saturday, police said, he shot Rogers, who was investigating the report of a suspicious vehicle there. Jones was arrested a few hours later, after authorities tracked him to the home of a cousin in Batesburg, S.C.
Monday was his first appearance since his arrest.
Jones was not represented by an attorney. When Williamson asked if he could afford one, Jones became agitated, let out guttural moans and said, “I don’t need one.” After signing papers informing him of his rights to future hearings and representation, Jones was led out of the courtroom and back into confinement. His next hearing is set for March 9.
Aiken County sheriff’s Capt. Troy Elwell said he had never seen a suspect demonstrate such a “disrespectful” attitude in court toward a judge or others present.
“What I saw was a very disturbed individual who showed no remorse for his actions,” Elwell said after the hearing.
Howard Vice, Cayce’s father, said he believes Jones was putting on an act in an attempt to build an insanity defense.
“I lived with him for over a month, and he never acted like that,” Vice said.
Monday’s hearing was the first time James Jones had seen his oldest son since his arrest. He was disturbed by what he saw.
“I’ve never seen him looking like this,” he said. “The public is going to look at him as some kind of a monster.”
James Jones said his son had a history of mental illness and bouts of trouble with the law. He said his son served about a year in jail in Georgia for an incident in 2007 and had some other minor arrests elsewhere, but nothing compared to what he is currently accused of.
He said he thinks Saturday’s events are the result of a steady decline in he son’s mental state since March, when he was hospitalized from an assault.
“Some guys robbed him and beat him up. He almost died,” James Jones said.
An Aiken County sheriff’s report from March 2 says Joshua Jones was discovered lying by the side of the road on Dorr Street in North Augusta. He was bleeding from a cut to his face and appeared to be intoxicated and incoherent, the report says.
James Jones said his son suffered internal bleeding and was at Medical College of Georgia Hospital for almost two weeks.
The suspect’s mother, Deana Jones, said her son’s depression deepened after the assault. His mental decline culminated in a suicide attempt June 1. He tried to shoot himself in the head, but the bullet only grazed his temple, according to a sheriff’s report.
James Jones said his son was transferred from Aiken Regional Medical Centers to Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services for treatment, but released back to his care after less than a month. Within a couple of days, Joshua Jones was out of his father’s house.
“I really didn’t know where he was,” James Jones said.
Deana Jones said her son missed follow-up appointments with psychiatrists and was dropped from treatment. She was never told a diagnosis, or what medications he was supposed to be taking, because her son’s doctors told her it would violate her son’s right to privacy.
She said that in the weeks before the shootings, he seemed more troubled. She said her son was delusional at times, seeing himself as part of the Bible’s book of Revelation.
“He felt he was a part of this big prophecy,” she said. “He has written himself into the Bible.”
The last time she talked with him, however, he did seem in better spirits, she said. It was Wednesday, the night of Vice’s 21st birthday.
“He was happy,” Jones said. “They were going out to eat dinner together.”
James Jones said he is praying for his son and for the families of the victims, and hoped that some day his son could be reconciled with God. He also hoped others would one day find a way to forgive his son, but he was at a loss to understand what had happened. He didn’t see how it could be part of God’s plan.
“This has to be some kind of satanic force,” he said.