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Defense asks evidence be suppressed in triple-homicide case

Thursday, Aug 14, 2014 8:55 PM
Last updated Friday, Aug 15, 2014 1:48 AM
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Richmond County Cpl. Mitchell Freeman was on his way to work May 21, 2013, when a long-time friend called him in a panic.

Ryan Jones is accused of killing his parents and little brother last year.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Ryan Jones is accused of killing his parents and little brother last year.

Steven Jones, of Macon, hadn’t been able to reach his parents, Roosevelt and Edna Jones, or brother, Russell Jones, in about a day.

After a disturbing exchange with his other brother, Ryan, Steven Jones had a gut feeling something was wrong.

When Freeman arrived at the home on Pinnacle Place Drive for a welfare check, he saw three cars parked in the yard but got no answer at the door.

He called a captain in the criminal investigation division, waited for backup, and with permission of Steven Jones via telephone, kicked open the back door.

What he saw next prompted law enforcement to begin an investigation that linked the three missing Joneses to the charred and dismembered remains of three people found earlier that afternoon in a nearby field.

“I saw a lot of blood,” Freeman recalled in court Thursday.

After Freeman’s discovery, officers obtained warrants to search the Pinnacle Place Drive home and its three vehicles that day. But attorneys representing Ryan Jones, charged with killing his mother, father and brother, said officers performed an illegal search by not obtaining a warrant to kick down the door.

Because of that “illegal search,” all evidence collected in the days that followed should be suppressed at Ryan Jones’ impending death penalty trial, lead defense attorney Ryan Swingle said at Thursday’s motion-to-suppress hearing.

“This is a horrible, horrible, tragic case,” Swingle said. “When the state is asking to execute someone, thank God we live in a country that closely examines the investigation that went into the case.”

Roosevelt and Edna Jones were both retired Richmond County educators who were 40-year members of Augusta Deliverance Evangelistic Church. Russell Jones was a sophomore at Fort Valley State University majoring in health and physical education and was visiting his parents at the time of his death.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said officers had probable cause to kick the door in because multiple family members were on their way to Augusta “out of grave concern” for Roosevelt, Edna and Russell; that Steven Jones told police Ryan Jones was acting strangely; and that Steven Jones gave permission to kick in the door.

“They are not required to sit on their heels,” Wright said.

In the five-hour hearing, the court heard testimony from seven officers about their methods in obtaining warrants to search the Pinnacle Place Drive home, the vehicles, and a Days Inn hotel room where Ryan Jones had previously stayed.

They also described the arrest of Ryan Jones, which took place at Traditions Apartments on Walton Way Extension.

While en route to the sheriff’s office for questioning, deputy Matthew Kirkland testified Ryan Jones had stated he was concerned about clothes he left at the Days Inn in Augusta and asked if he could retrieve them.

That unsolicited comment prompted officers to obtain a search warrant for the Days Inn, where they recovered a cell phone, charger and two towels.

Swingle said the initial “illegal search” of the Pinnacle Place Drive home by kicking in the door tainted all search warrants that followed and that all statements made by Ryan Jones after his arrest, like his inquiry about his belongings at the hotel, should also be suppressed.

Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet asked the state and the defense to file proposed orders within 30 days for him to consider.

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corgimom 08/14/14 - 11:37 pm
Now I have heard it all.

Now I have heard it all.

They didn't need a warrant, they had good reason to believe that people were in need of immediate assistance.

This is absolutely ridiculous.

Young Fred
Young Fred 08/15/14 - 12:16 am
Here, here!

What an excellent article by McManus! If the Chronicle is not careful, we might start expecting this type of in depth coverage of all their reporters.

geecheeriverman 08/15/14 - 04:58 am
just the beginning

This is just the beginning of a long and costly trial paid for by the long suffering taxpayers. This man is guilty and should be sentenced to death. The sentence should be carried out POST HASTE.

itsanotherday1 08/15/14 - 09:14 am
I don't know how criminal

I don't know how criminal defense lawyers can sleep at night.

historylover 08/15/14 - 10:17 am
Grasping at straws

I think that the defense team has nothing else to "try" to stop their client from receiving the death penalty. Of course it was a legal search. Let's hope that Judge Overstreet sees it for the ridiculous ploy it is and rules against the defense teams request.

I very rarely believe in the death penalty. There are too many wrongful convictions on the books across the country. But when someone's guilt is so obvious, they should pay the ultimate price for their crime.

billcass 08/15/14 - 11:12 am
I sleep quite well, thank you

I am a criminal defense lawyer. If you, or a loved one, were ever falsely accused of a crime, you would want me to fight with every fiber of my being to clear your name. And I would. This isn't communist China. We don't convict people simply because the police arrested them.

reader54 08/15/14 - 11:56 am

Thanks for the comment in defense of your Profession. It ceases to amaze how so many can read one story of only one view and not only convict but scream for death. Even with all the Rights bestowed upon us, the prisons are full of innocent inmates. Many have gotten the death penalty on questionable evidence and were executed and many others are literally fighting for their lives while we witness far too many being reversed and set free after decades of solitary confinement. It could be you one day.
I was taught that our system operates under the view that it is better to exonerate 10 guilty than convict one innocent. Is that still true, Counselor?

raul 08/15/14 - 12:37 pm
Mr. Cass, how many have you

Mr. Cass, how many have you gotten off that you knew were guilty?

jimmymac 08/15/14 - 12:47 pm

If a person is truly innocent then by all means they should be protected. However that has evolved into a hook or by crook strategy by defense lawyers. The evidence collected is just that collected evidence. If he's guilty then he's guilty but I guess in your book Charles Manson shouldn't be in jail either.

billcass 08/15/14 - 07:30 pm
Better that

Than have one who is innocent go to jail.

oldredneckman96 08/15/14 - 08:24 pm
Raise your right hand and say....

"I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." In a court case where you are a witness and know the truth, would you be allowed to speak it? If a judge rules that some evidence is not allowed, say some dope a dealer had, if he is acquitted, does he get his dope back? All this is more reason to ensure you do your jury duty, to keep crooked lawyers and dumb judges straight.

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