Fort Worth woman charged in 1986 death of 19-month-old nephew

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- For the second time in 26 years, Patricia Ann Jones finds herself behind bars, accused in the death of her nephew.

The first time -- a week after the Sept. 9, 1986 death of 19-month-old John P. Jones -- police had also arrested her husband, Juan Tonio Jones, accusing the couple of fatally injuring the boy while babysitting him inside their Fort Worth home.

But two days later, the couple was released and charges were never formally filed.

On Friday, after reopening the cold case and further investigation, Fort Worth police arrested Patricia Jones again.

This time, the now 56-year-old woman stands accused alone. She was formally charged with murder on Tuesday.

"It was a shock," Everna Howard said of her daughter's arrest. "I don't understand it... Nobody knows nothing. They just know she's in jail and what they have her for -- murder. That's all we know right now."

Juan Jones had taken John, his sister's son, to the John Peter Smith Hospital emergency room late on the morning of Sept 4, 1986, after the child had reportedly suffered convulsions and lost consciousness. Doctors discovered the boy had severe swelling to the back of his head and conducted emergency surgery to try to relieve the pressure inside his skull.

The child, however, never awoke from his coma and died five days later, according to a 1986 Star-Telegram article about his death.

Detectives learned that Juan and Patricia Jones had been caring for the boy at their home in the 1000 block of E. Magnolia Ave., while the boy's mother worked. The aunt and uncle had been keeping the child off and on for a few months, police said at that time.

The Joneses told investigators that John had been playing with their children in a bedroom when he bounced off the bed and onto the hardwood floor.

But police at the time told the Star-Telegram that the couple refused to give police a written statement, nor did they allow child welfare investigators to take photos of the bedroom where the injury had occurred.

On Sept. 17, 1986, police arrested the couple on suspicion of murder.

CPS investigated

Homicide Sgt. Cheryl Johnson said it is unclear why the cases, however, were never filed with the Tarrant County District Attorney's office and the Joneses were later released.

Even though they were released, child welfare investigators removed the couple's four children from their home after an investigation found reason to believe the children had been victims of emotional abuse, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.

Gonzales said records show the children remained in state custody through November 1987, at which time a judge terminated the state's responsibility for them. At that time, she said, the children were living with a relative.

But by 1994, county records show the children -- including a fifth who had been born in 1987 -- were residing again with Patricia Jones while their father was in prison on a conviction of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.

John's parents have since died.

The boy's death, it seemed, had become a distant memory to many when the case was recently located among the police department's cold case files and assigned to Detective W.D. Paine for further investigation.

"Detective Paine established through his investigation that Patricia Jones was the person with John when he received the injuries and those injuries were not consistent with a fall," Johnson said.

'She's a good person'

Johnson said no other arrests are expected in the case.

Patricia Jones' current husband, 64-year-old Berniest Wren, said he knew nothing about the 1986 case until receiving a call -- while fishing -- Friday from a detective informing him that his wife of 17 years was being arrested on a murder warrant.

Though he had not had a chance to visit with his wife since her arrest, Wren said her relatives have told him that while she had been arrested in the case in 1986, charges were later dropped after it was determined she was "innocent."

He said he has never known his wife to be abusive, even when dealing with a mentally-challenged son who sometimes lashed out in fits, and that he doesn't believe she caused the baby's death.

"I'm positive because she's a good person," Wren said.

Howard said she can't believe her daughter could be capable of harming a child.

"Sometimes I think she's too good," Howard said. "She loves those kids."

Deanna Boyd, (817) 390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd