Past violence can be used as evidence in murder trial

Willie Jones

A judge ruled Friday that anattack on an ex-girlfriend and her friend can be used as trial evidence against an Augusta man accused of beating a 4-year-old so severely the child was left brain dead.

Willie Jones, 23, has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to charges of murder.

Jones was initially charged with cruelty to children after Ty’Asia Phillips, his biological daughter, was taken to a hospital unconscious and covered in bruises on March 11, 2012. The charge was upgraded to murder after Ty’Asia was removed from life support a week later.

Ty’Asia lived with her maternal grandmother. She allowed the child to stay with Jones at his mother’s home for two weeks while she underwent surgery and recuperated. On the final weekend of her stay, Jones was home alone with Ty’Asia and four other children he was baby-sitting the night of March 11, 2012.

In interviews with the other children, sheriff investigators heard chilling accounts of how Jones repeatedly beat Ty’Asia, switching weapons as they broke under the force of the blows, Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter told the judge Friday.

For the purpose of proving motive and intent, Markwalter introduced a Sept. 10, 2008, attack by Jones on an ex-girlfriend and her friend.

That morning, Jones yanked April Dunn out of a truck and smacked her across the face with a crutch, Markwalter said. Later in the day, Jones returned to Willie Reid’s home waving a large knife and threatening to kill Reid. Reid shot Jones in self defense. Jones was convicted of aggravated assault and terroristic threats and sentenced to five years probation.

Katrell Nash of the public defender’s office argued against allowing the evidence, contending the two incidents were nothing alike, and violence alone wasn’t a legal justification.

Judge Daniel J. Craig ruled the evidence of the 2008 case can be used for the limited purpose of proving motive and intent.

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