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

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013  comments  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 also arrested her husband, Juan Tonio Jones, accusing the couple of fatally injuring the boy while baby-sitting him at 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 investigating further, Fort Worth police arrested Patricia Jones again.

This time, the now-56-year-old woman stands accused alone. She was formally charged with murder 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 the morning of Sept. 4, 1986, after the child had reportedly suffered convulsions and lost consciousness. Doctors discovered severe swelling on the back of the boy's head and performed emergency surgery to try to relieve pressure.

The child never awoke from a coma and died five days later, according to a 1986 Star-Telegram article. Detectives learned that Juan and Patricia Jones had been caring for the boy at their home in the 1000 block of East Magnolia Avenue while the boy's mother worked. The aunt and uncle had kept the child off and on for a few months, police said at the 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 told the Star-Telegram that the couple refused to give police a written statement or allow child welfare investigators to photograph the bedroom where the injury occurred. On Sept. 17, 1986, police arrested the couple on suspicion of murder.

CPS investigated

Homicide Sgt. Cheryl Johnson said it's unclear why the cases were never filed with the Tarrant County district attorney's office and why the Joneses were released.

Even though they were released, child welfare investigators removed the couple's four children after an investigation found reason to believe that the children had been emotionally abused, said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services.

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

By 1994, county records show, the children -- including a fifth born in 1987 -- were living 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 seems, had become a distant memory to many when the case was recently found 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.

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

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. He doesn't believe she caused the baby's death.

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

Howard said she doesn't believe that her daughter is capable of harming a child.

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

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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