In plea deal, suspect in officer's killing gets life without parole

Joshua Tremaine Jones pleaded guilty but mentally ill Monday in the slaying of Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers.

 

Joshua Tremaine Jones pleaded guilty but mentally ill Monday in the 2012 slaying of Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers.

In a plea deal, Jones, 28, was sentenced to life without parole by Judge Jack Early of the 2nd Judicial Circuit, said Jones’ attorney, Boyd Young.

Before the sentencing, a court psychiatrist testified that Jones has a significant mental health history and a family history of schizophrenia, Young said. The psychiatrist diagnosed Jones as a schizophrenic.

Jones also pleaded guilty but mentally ill to unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, failure to stop for blue lights and petty larceny.

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 Augusta apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Cayce Vice. Police later found Vice shot to death in her bed.

Jones faces murder charges in Georgia in the slaying of Vice.

Second Judicial Circuit Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. said Jones’ mental illness prompted plea negotiations rather than pursing trial with the possibility of the death penalty.

“We accepted this resolution before ultimately having to make that decision, understanding he has a serious mental health condition,” Thurmond said.

Six months before shooting Rogers, Jones shot himself in the head, causing brain injury, Thurmond said. A portion of his brain and bullet fragments were removed after the self-inflicted injury.

Young said the plea deal served justice to a mentally ill person.

“This outcome was in his best interest. I’m happy to have avoided the death penalty,” he said. “To try to execute someone who is as sick as him would not be justice.”

Jones will be incarcerated in a maximum-security prison with a mental health facility, Thurmond said.

Another suspect in the slaying of an Aiken Public Safety officer will go to trial this year. Stephon Morrell Carter, charged with the Dec. 20, 2011, killing of Officer Scotty Richardson, is scheduled for trial in November, Thurmond said.

Richardson died after a shootout with Carter after a traffic stop on Brandt Court. Public Safety Officer Travis Griffin was hit first but was protected by a bulletproof vest.

Carter, who was wounded by police and captured, was charged with murder and attempted murder. He remains in the Aiken County Detention Center.

Thurmond has filed notice that he will seek the death penalty against Carter.

In a statement Tuesday, Aiken Public Safety commended the community for its support since Rogers’ death and the authorities who investigated and prosecuted Jones.

“We are grateful for the support that we received, and continue to receive, from our community,” the statement said. “We applaud the professionalism, dedication and hard work of the Second Judicial Circuit Solicitors Office, the State Law Enforcement Division and all the officers and individuals involved in the investigation, arrest, detention and prosecution of this case.”

 

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