One Thursday morning in April, Kim Douglass walked into the Jackson County Courthouse to face the man police believed to be her daughter’s killer.
It had been more than four years since the December afternoon when Douglass’ phone rang and her nineteen-year-old daughter’s roommate delivered sickeningly vague news: Something happened to Jenai.
Douglass had jumped in her car and raced to the Courtyard Apartments on Old Santa Fe Road, arriving to find the southeast Kansas City complex roped off with yellow tape and throbbing red from the lights atop police cruisers and ambulances. Terrified, she wandered through the scattered crowd of neighbors, detectives and paramedics. “I finally asked somebody, CEIs she dead?'” Douglass remembers. “And they said yes.”
Jenai had been stabbed multiple times.
For years, Douglass kept in close touch with police. They had no real leads, and because it was an open investigation, detectives shared few of the details they did have. Douglass grew more frustrated, fearing that no one would ever catch her daughter’s murderer.
Then one day in the summer of 2001, a friend called and told her to get a copy of The Kansas City Star. Douglass scanned the front page of the Metropolitan section and spotted a headline about a man awaiting trial for the murder of a young woman from Kansas City’s east side. The story said DNA evidence had linked Daniel O. Jones to another, similar killing.
For seventeen years, the Jones family had lived across from Douglass on secluded Oakland Street, in a neighborhood of worn but neat-looking houses near Raytown. As a teenager, Daniel Jones had mowed Douglass’ lawn.
Douglass’ daughter, Jenai, who was almost ten years younger than Jones, had often played with his little sister, Melissa. The girls were close friends by the time they started attending Raytown South High School. Melissa had even sung at Jenai’s funeral on December 10, 1998.
Since Jenai’s murder, Douglass had seen Jones, now in his midthirties, every now and then when he’d come back to visit his parents or help them with home repairs. Whenever Douglass saw Jones outside doing yard work, he smiled and waved and sometimes stopped to chat. “It was always, ‘Hi, how are you doing,’ real friendly,” she says.
A few days after Douglass read the news story, a phone call from the Kansas City Police Department confirmed the mother’s gut feeling — police now suspected Jones in Jenai’s murder, too.
As she walked into the courthouse that day last April, a detective who had worked Jenai’s case was having his shoes shined in the basement. Douglass took the elevator to the sixth floor. There, she was standing in the hallway talking to friends and family members when the elevator doors opened to reveal a tall man with a receding hairline and black-frame eyeglasses. He wore an orange jumpsuit, and his hands were cuffed behind his back. As two guards escorted him into the courtroom, he didn’t smile.
Douglass sat in the front row, behind the table where prosecutor Tim Dollar was accompanied by three detectives. She knew that in August 2002, Jones had been convicted in the murder of eighteen-year-old Candriea White and that he’d been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Now, Jones had been charged with killing another woman before White and was a suspect in two other previous murders, including her daughter’s.
Prosecutors were offering the alleged serial killer an Alford plea — a deal in which the accused does not have to admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have evidence that could lead to his conviction. Prosecutors expected Jones to accept the offer of three twenty-year sentences, to be served simultaneously.
“I just felt like, he’s not being treated like a possible serial killer. He’s not getting what he deserves,” Douglass recalls. “And there’s no justice here for any of these victims.”
But Dollar turned to Douglass and whispered, “He’s not going to take the plea.”
That meant Jones would gamble his future on an upcoming trial. For nearly an hour, Jones’ defense attorney, Geary Jaco, and Jackson County Circuit Judge John O’Malley questioned Jones about his decision not to accept the deal. Douglass remembers that at one point, someone asked Jones if he recognized anyone in the courtroom.
“He looked around and said, ‘No,'” she says.
Plea or no plea, Jones will likely spend the rest of his life in a prison cell. That fact comforts police and prosecutors.
But it’s of little solace to Douglass, who knows that police are refusing to use DNA evidence that could help show whether Jones also committed the other murders. She wonders whether some women might still be alive if investigators hadn’t been so slow to analyze that evidence.
On March 10, 1999, a friend of Kaliquah Gilliam, 21, found her lying dead in her duplex on Arleta Boulevard near 74th Terrace. Inside the home, tucked behind the red-brick Christian Tabernacle Church of God and Christ just off the Paseo, police found that the young woman had been stabbed to death.
The murder received little media attention — a short article in the Star said she had been scheduled to testify in a robbery case but stopped short of linking her murder with the upcoming trial. No one was formally charged in the case, but police eventually named Jones as a suspect — though they will not say on what evidence their suspicion is based.
A few months later, in mid-August, Roxanne Colley disappeared. Colley had some family in Kansas City, including the aunt and uncle who had raised her after her own mother died at an early age. At 21, Colley looked like a doe-eyed schoolgirl, with perfectly coifed hair framing her face. She had gone to the private Catholic school Notre Dame de Sion, at 106th Street and Wornall Road, but she’d quit and had later earned a GED. She was working as a legal secretary for the Internal Revenue Service, and she had plans to attend Rockhurst University and, eventually, law school. When no one heard from her for three days, a friend went to her home on Askew Avenue, near Swope Park, to check on her.
The friend walked around the house and saw that someone had broken out a back window. Colley’s body was inside. She’d been raped and beaten, and her throat had been slashed.
Performing the autopsy, Jackson County Medical Examiner Thomas Young discovered semen on the inside of Colley’s leg. He swabbed the fluid and turned it over to investigators.
It took nearly a year and a half for experts at the Kansas City Regional Crime Laboratory to report their analysis of the evidence, which included a DNA profile created from the semen.
John Wilson, a quality-assurance supervisor for the Kansas City Regional Crime Laboratory, blames the long delay on the lab’s 1999 switch to a newer, more sensitive method of DNA analysis and its move to a larger facility at 66th Street and Troost. “When this homicide occurred, it was right as we were transitioning to the new system,” Wilson says. Also, the lab had a backlog of crime-scene DNA waiting to be tested and only enough funds to pay two DNA experts. “A year is considered a long time, but it’s not surprising to me that it took that long,” Wilson says. (Even now, with six DNA analysts, the lab lags six months behind, Wilson says.)
Another six months passed before the crime lab experts notified investigators that their computer system had matched the sample to a DNA profile in the state’s convicted-offender file. Wilson says he does not know why it took half a year to find a match. “You’d have to talk to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s forensic lab about that,” he says. The MSHP uses the data from local crime labs to search a state database for DNA matches. But the MSHP’s Susanne Brenneke, who conducts the searches, says that according to her computer records, the staff at the Kansas City crime lab did not enter the original DNA profile into its own computer system until April 20, 2001. “That would mean we probably didn’t get it until sometime in May,” Brenneke says. “And on June 4, we sent out information that a match had occurred.”
Finally, the Kansas City crime lab issued a report of its own. “The seminal fluid found on the victim’s leg was a genetic match to Daniel O. Jones, B/M, 09/26/69,” the analysts wrote to police in a June 7, 2001, report.
That information came too late for Candriea White. Jones had killed her just three months earlier, while information that could have saved her languished at the Kansas City crime lab.
Candriea was the baby of the White family, the third of Stephanie White’s children. White recalls that Candriea was meticulous about keeping her room tidy and maintaining her appearance. “She was very good at doing her hair. Every time you looked, she had dyed it a different color or done a braid or a weave,” White says. As a teenager, Candriea hadn’t been into partying or cruising for boys with her girlfriends. She was quiet and reserved, preferring to study or watch television. She told her mother she wasn’t going to have kids.
But when Candriea was sixteen, she broke some surprising news: She was six months’ pregnant. White says she responded with love but was also firm. “I told her, ‘You made your bed hard, now you’re going to lie in it.'”
Candriea dropped out of Southwest High School but attended a job-training program and eventually got her GED. She got pregnant again when she was seventeen and had a baby boy. White says Candriea loved being a mom. “She spent almost all her spare time at home with the children.”
Perhaps influenced by her mother’s work as a private nurse, Candriea wanted a job in the health field and decided to become a pharmacist. By the time she was eighteen, Candriea had won a scholarship to Penn Valley Community College; she planned to transfer to the University of Missouri-Kansas City after two years to finish her degree. As a single mother and student, she was able to get housing assistance. In the fall of 2000, she signed a lease at Linden Hill Apartments, a block south of the Bannister Federal Complex. Candriea lived on Mews Street, a curving drive flanked by clusters of flat-topped brick apartment buildings and pine trees.
“It was a beautiful place. It had two bedrooms, a fireplace, a balcony,” White says. She adds that her family had once been homeless. “Candriea was focused. She knew what she wanted.”
After Candriea moved, she and her mother became even closer, talking on the phone almost every day. Candriea would call just to say hello or to ask a question about how to cook tuna casserole. But once, White says, the conversation turned more serious.
“Candriea told me about Daniel Jones one night. She said, ‘Mama, he keeps calling me. He’s stalking me.'”
White says Candriea had known Jones in high school, after the Whites moved to their tan, ranch-style house on 73rd Street near Brooklyn. The grassy acres of Swope Park separated their house from the one in which Jones grew up, a few miles east on the edge of Raytown.
“I didn’t think much of it, because you just don’t hear about African-Americans stalking each other,” White says. “I guess I watch too much TV. I figured that’s for white folks. So, I just said, ‘Why don’t you block his phone number.’ She said, ‘I did, but he must be calling from different places.’ Another time, she told me, ‘Mama, Daniel found out where I live. He woke me out of a sleep — it must have been twelve or one o’clock in the morning. I told him he can’t be coming over here.'”
On March 6, 2001, one of Candriea’s neighbors noticed that the door to Apartment D was propped open. When she peered inside, she saw Candriea’s three-year-old daughter staring back at her.
“Where is your mother?” the neighbor asked.
“She’s in the corner,” the little girl said. “Dead.”
When the 911 call came in, Kansas City police officer James Foushee and his partner were patrolling only a block or two from Linden Hill. Inside the apartment, they found Candriea’s body clad only in a blood-stained white T-shirt and socks. A bloody gash stretched across her throat.
Crime-scene investigator Charles Johnson arrived at about 5 p.m. He noted that whoever killed Candriea apparently hadn’t broken in; there was no damage to the lock or the door frame. Candriea had seemingly been interrupted during an afternoon of household chores — the television was on in the bedroom, and a phone and some sheets of paper sat on the corner of the bed near a baby’s drinking cup. In the kitchen, onion peels and a torn envelope lay scattered on the floor.
Johnson took photos of Candriea’s body, which lay in a large pool of blood near a pair of panties, a broken gold necklace and a pair of glasses. He photographed blood smears on the living-room, kitchen and bathroom walls. There was blood on the door jamb, in the kitchen sink and in a kitchen drawer. On one of the living-room walls was a bloody handprint.
Two days after the murder, police learned that the handprint matched a fingerprint card that Daniel O. Jones had signed in 1998. That day, police arrested Jones at his home on East 46th Street just off Cleveland.
Jones told lead detective Doug Niemeier that he had never heard of Candriea White. Niemeier asked Jones if he’d ever been inside an apartment in the Linden Hill complex.
“Never in my life,” Jones replied. He told police they had nabbed “the wrong guy.” According to court records, Jones told police exactly what he had done on the day of his arrest, from the time he got out of bed in the morning until he was taken into police custody. But when the cops asked him to recount his actions from the previous day, the day after the murder, Jones abruptly ended the questioning. Court records quote him as saying, “It’s none of your business where I was at.”
When Stephanie White went to the funeral home to look at her daughter, she was horrified. Candriea had been stabbed fourteen times and beaten so badly that she was nearly unrecognizable.
For a while, a grieving White fantasized that Candriea wasn’t really dead. She would go to the drugstore or the grocery store and see a woman who looked like Candriea from a distance. That’s probably Candriea, and she’s just got amnesia and can’t find her way back home, she’d think.
White ultimately found comfort in religion, and she says that she’s forgiven Jones. But she’s also had to cope with hearing Candriea’s daughter, Raykell, now six, tell “the story” about the murder over and over. Raykell will follow White around, saying, “Let me tell you the story about my mother.” And she will tell White about how a man in black pants and a black hat and black glasses killed her mother. Raykell often asks to go to “the house” where her mother was killed.
“Even though her mother is dead and she knows that, she keeps asking to go back there,” White says. “She asked me again just a few days ago. I know when she goes back there, she’s going to relive it like it’s happening right now, so I keep telling her I’ll take her when she gets older. But if one day the Lord tells me to take her back there, then I’ll take her.”
A little more than a year after the murder, in August 2002, Jones went on trial.
In his opening statement, lawyer Tim Dollar (working part-time for the Jackson County prosecutor’s office) told the jury that Jones had “ice water in his veins.” Officer Foushee spoke about finding the body, and crime-scene investigator Johnson added his observations. Medical examiner Young told the jury that he’d found stab wounds all over Candriea White’s face and neck, at all angles, including one 3 and one-fourth inches deep in the back of her neck. Candriea also had been hit in the eyes with a blunt object — possibly a fist — causing hemorrhages. And she had what Young called defensive wounds on her hands and forearms. “[She was] probably trying to ward off the attack,” he said.
And Horace Adams Jr., Candriea’s stepfather, testified that after Candriea moved out, he’d gotten two phone calls from a man identifying himself as Daniel Jones. “He told me, ‘Where do Candriea White live at?'” Adams said in court. “I told him that she do not stay here no more.”
The key witness, though, was Kathleen Hentges, a fingerprint identification expert with the Kansas City Regional Crime Lab. “No one else could possibly have left that print,” Hentges said of Jones.
Then, Horton Lance, a public defender who was representing Jones at the time, began calling witnesses.
Jones’ half-sister, Tiffany Hill, testified that Jones had been hanging out at her house most of the day of the murder. He’d slept at her house the night before so that she could take him to his job at Malco Construction. But the morning of the murder, Jones called in sick, Hill said. She remembered waking up at about noon. “I know it was twelve something, because All My Children was on TV,” she testified. When she saw that Jones had taken her car, she called his cell phone and asked him to pick up some pancake mix. He returned before the show ended, and Hill made a late breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage. She left during the afternoon to do some shopping, she said, but Jones stayed at her house until about 4 p.m. She was sure of the time, she said, because Oprah was on TV.
Lance emphasized that Jones had professed his innocence to police, and the lawyer attacked Hentges’ credibility. Also, Lance said, the prosecution had only a partial handprint, which eliminated a part of the print that might not match Jones’ hand.
Nonetheless, it took only 49 minutes for the jury to find Jones guilty of first-degree murder. A judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Jones’ current attorney, Jaco, has filed an appeal.
“My client believes he’s innocent,” Jaco tells the Pitch. Jaco, who says he does not condone criminal behavior, explains that he is representing Jones’ Constitutional rights, which Jones thinks have been violated. “I represent everyone’s Constitutional rights, including the First, the Fourth, the Eighth, the Sixth and the Fourteenth,” Jaco says.
Jaco says that Jones’ rights were violated during the White trial in part because eyewitness testimony from Raykell was not permitted. Also, he says that even though Jones wore a suit (instead of an orange jail uniform) to the trial, jury members were told that he was being returned to jail after his courtroom appearances. “That would imply consciously or subconsciously to the jury that he’s guilty,” Jaco says.
The jury didn’t learn, however, that Jones was a convicted felon with a history as a sexual predator. But Kim Douglass knew — it was common knowledge around their southeast Kansas City neighborhood that he had gone to prison for a rape he’d committed when he was just seventeen.
It was May 20, 1987, the last day of classes before summer vacation at Raytown South High School. A physical-education teacher was about to walk out of a classroom when a man reached in and grabbed her wrist, yanked her into the school auditorium, shoved her to the floor and started choking her. As she struggled, she looked at his face and saw that the attacker was a student she didn’t know very well. The teenager raped her and ran away when the 10:47 bell rang.
Students who were switching classes later told police they saw the teacher standing in the hallway in a ripped blue dress, screaming hysterically that she had been raped. At about the same time, other witnesses told police, they saw Jones running from the building.
The teacher picked Jones out of both the high school yearbook and a police lineup. According to court records, when police questioned him two days later, he told them he’d been hanging out with four other guys in the locker room at the time of the rape. When they told him they planned to question those boys, he said he had actually been sitting outside on a grassy hill, reading a textbook. When police reminded him that students had turned in their books the day before the rape, he said he’d been outside sleeping. Then he changed his story again, claiming he had been sleeping on the stage in the auditorium and had been awakened by a scream.
Forensics experts, however, found a hair on the teacher that matched a hair taken from Jones. In March 1988, a jury convicted Jones of felony forcible rape, and a judge sentenced him to ten years in prison. In 1996, Jones was released on parole.
Every once in a while after that, Douglass saw him across the street, cutting his parents’ grass.
Jenai Douglass’ murder case was assigned to the 1010 Homicide Squad of the Kansas City Police Department — one of three homicide squads, each with eight investigators. Douglass says police didn’t interview her until weeks after the murder. Over the years, she would be passed among at least six investigators and supervisors.
At first, the lead detective on the case was Danny Phillips. He had Jenai’s case for about a year before he was transferred to another unit, Detective Jarrett Lanpher says. After Phillips transferred in 2000, Lanpher took over as lead detective. “I only had it for six, maybe seven months,” Lanpher tells the Pitch. Lanpher bounced between the KCPD’s homicide and assault squads for a year, and it appears that no lead detective was assigned to Jenai Douglass’ case after Lanpher left in 2001.
In the fall of 2001, a few months after she had seen the Star article about Jones, Douglass wrote a letter to Kansas City police asking that they give her the records in her daughter’s case so that she could have a private investigator review them. The police refused. Douglass had already gotten a call from Sgt. Rick Smith, who told her there was a new suspect in Jenai’s case. She told Smith she thought it was the same person she’d read about in the Star; Smith confirmed that it was Jones, though he didn’t say why Jones had suddenly drawn police scrutiny. But, Douglass says, “I had heard from somebody at the police department that they started looking at him because they got a call from the TIPS hotline.”
More than a month went by before Douglass heard anything else from police. In October 2001, frustrated with the lack of new information, she called Smith, who told her that police had DNA evidence in Jenai’s case.
According to Douglass, Smith said the sample — some fluid collected from the murder scene — contained a mix of DNA from both Jenai and the killer. In order to create the killer’s DNA profile, experts needed to isolate his DNA. Smith told Douglass the Kansas City crime lab didn’t have that kind of technology; investigators would have to contract with a private lab.
Douglass says Smith told her that the police could send the samples to three labs around the country. By that time, three years had passed since her daughter’s murder, and Douglass says she had lost all respect for the Kansas City Police Department’s ability to solve homicides. (Around that same time, local news media reported that Kansas City homicide detectives had solved only 51 percent of their cases that year — their lowest clearance rate in more than ten years.)
Four and a half months after police identified Jones as a suspect in Jenai’s murder, Douglass contacted Deputy Chief George Roberts of the KCPD Investigations Unit. She complained that she was still waiting to get information on the DNA, which she believed had been sent to a private lab, and that she was concerned that police had not interviewed Melissa Jones — Daniel Jones’ sister — who had been a close friend of Jenai’s.
“I would like to extend my deepest sympathy for the loss of your daughter,” Roberts wrote to Douglass on November 14, 2001. “At this time, technology is not able to conclusively identify one person as the suspect. Without a positive identification, prosecution would be futile.” Also, Roberts wrote, “Your question regarding interviewing the sister of the potential suspect is warranted. Detectives have already made several calls regarding the location of the sister. Because she currently resides out of town, detectives have tried to reach her when she is in Kansas City. This has proven to be difficult, but the task will be completed.” He concluded: “I would like to personally assure you that the Homicide Unit is conducting a professional and thorough investigation.”
In February 2002, Douglass wrote back to Roberts, thanking him for his response and asking more questions. “Detective Lanpher, who has worked my daughter’s case, was removed in 2001. To my knowledge, there has been no detective assigned to her case since then. If this is an open investigation, in other words an open case, why is there not anyone assigned to it?”
Douglass didn’t get a reply.
When Leawood teenager Ali Kemp was murdered that following summer, Douglass watched the media frenzy and police attention, resentful that her daughter’s case hadn’t received similar treatment. Only one television station had covered Jenai’s murder, and the Star had ignored it. When she saw an article in which a Kansas City police detective pledged to continue to help out on the Kemp case (and compared Kemp to an angel), she began to feel that racism was involved. She fired off yet another letter, this one to Kansas City Police Chief Richard Easley.
“Your response to the murder in Leawood shows just how efforts in solving homicides are different when it comes to non-minorities,” she wrote. “My daughter did not get the Metro Squad, and as you well know, her killer has not been captured. Until DNA tests are performed, we will never know who her killer is. Testing that your department has not sent out for 43 months.”
Douglass finally contacted Bill Whitcomb of the Community Relations Office of the U.S. Department of Justice, asking for his help in settling the DNA issue. Whitcomb says he didn’t have much power to help Douglass. “I did contact the police department, and I suggested that they write Ms. Douglass a letter to clarify exactly what was going on,” Whitcomb says. After several faxes and conversations between Douglass and Lt. Col. Rachel Whipple of the KCPD’s Investigations Unit — in which Whipple informed Douglass that the DNA had not been sent to an outside lab — Whipple wrote Douglass a letter on January 29, 2003.
“I regret the fact that you feel you have received incorrect information from the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. I still believe it has simply been a matter of talking to a number of different people who all had different ideas on what might occur,” she wrote. “I assure you that if we had any reason to believe there would be any benefit to sending this evidence to another facility, we would certainly do so.”
Wilson, of the Kansas City Regional Crime Laboratory, says he cannot discuss specifics with regard to evidence in the Douglass case. But he says some techniques can be used on “mixed” DNA samples. But Wilson dismisses the method that Douglass says police told her they would hire an outside lab to perform. That relatively new technology isolates the Y chromosome from the DNA sample, allowing experts to study just the male DNA from a mixed male-female sample. “That technique can’t be used to positively identify [a criminal],” Wilson says.
But no DNA technique can, according to experts Douglass contacted. Unwilling to give up, she called celebrity forensics expert Henry Lee, the chief criminalist at the Connecticut state laboratory, who testified in the O.J. Simpson trial and later worked on the Jon Benet Ramsey and Chandra Levy cases. Lee replied to her letter on July 7, saying that his laboratory could not get involved in a case without a “request to review evidence” from a district attorney or law-enforcement agency.
Speaking from Lee’s lab, Major Timothy Palmbach tells the Pitch that the new Y-chromosome DNA test can be helpful in cases of sexual assault and murder. “We just had two cases [that used it] this week,” Palmbach says. “It’s good, solid technology.” Palmbach acknowledges that the Y-chromosome method does not narrow the field of suspects as much as some other DNA testing, but his laboratory never makes absolute statements of identity. “We make very conservative statements,” he says. He says his lab has assisted 147 local police departments in the past year.
“I suggest you have your attorney contact the Kansas City or Missouri area FBI office and request that they re-examine the evidence,” Lee wrote to Douglass. “Or you could ask the police to release the evidence to you and you could have an independent laboratory do the analysis.” But Douglass had already tried all of that.
A lifelong employee at the local General Motors plant, Douglass says she doesn’t have $18,000, which is what a crime lab employee told her an independent review could cost.
Dollar says Jackson County doesn’t, either. “She wanted to have Henry Lee come in and look at it,” Dollar says, laughing. “I said, ‘Fine! Have him come in. But we don’t have the resources to pay for it.'”
Palmbach says Lee’s lab is sometimes willing to work with police departments to hold down expenses. “We have limited resources, but we try to help out as much as we can, especially if investigators have tried everything, they’re at the end of the rope, and we’re their last hope,” he tells the Pitch.
Dollar and Douglass have argued about how to solve the mystery of who killed Jenai.
Because Jones is already serving life without parole, Dollar decided to offer him a plea bargain in the Gilliam, Colley and Douglass murders, in order to close those cases.
But, Douglass says, closing the case isn’t good enough for her. She wants the murder solved. “Maybe he didn’t do it,” she says of Jones. “How will they know until they test the DNA?”
Dollar, who prosecuted the White case, is handling the other three cases in which Jones is also a suspect. A former full-time prosecutor for Jackson County, Dollar is now a private-practice lawyer who regularly handles cases for the prosecutor’s office. Dollar says that in nineteen years of criminal prosecution, he’s never had a case in which the perpetrator was suspected of having committed multiple murders.
“I had a plan,” Dollar says. “And it made a hell of a lot of sense to me. I thought, OK, perhaps this will benefit these victims’ families. This would have given them the benefit of knowing the man who did this to their daughter is behind bars.”
Two weeks before Jones’ plea hearing, which had been scheduled for April of this year, Dollar and Sgt. Smith met with Douglass to discuss the arrangement. “I told Ms. Douglass, CEI not only have your best interests at heart, but I have the interests of the community at heart,'” Dollar says. “If I were to try Mr. Jones fifty times, there would be no other benefit I could get other than the pure cathartic effect on the victims’ families knowing he’s being punished for the murder of their loved ones.”
Dollar says he offered Jones the Alford plea “because that’s all [Jones would] do.”
That’s because “there were a number of things in the charging documents that [Jones] could not admit to in open court,” Jaco says. “My client has always maintained his innocence.”
Douglass agreed at first but later decided the deal was unfair.
“I just felt like, if he did murder all these women, then he’s a serial killer, and they’re helping him out here.” She was disturbed by the idea that Jones could make the Alford plea and not have to admit guilt. And she felt the concurrent sentences Colley case is under appeal. Lawyers are just beginning to file briefs with the Missouri Court of Appeals and do not know how long the process will take. If Jones wins his appeal, and if he is acquitted in the Colley case, he could go free.
After his refusal to take the plea, a judge set the Colley case for trial this December.
But Dollar told Douglass her daughter’s case probably would likely never go to trial.
“As the [Douglass] case stands now, we do not have sufficient evidence to proceed. I wish we did but we don’t,” Dollar tells the Pitch. He adds that he also has insufficient evidence in the Gilliam case. “The Douglass and Gilliam cases are still under the purview of the police department.”
That’s news to Sgt. Niemeier, who now heads up the KCPD’s 1010 Homicide Squad. The Douglass and Gilliam cases are both being handled by Dollar’s bosses, Niemeier tells the Pitch. “The status of the case is, it’s at the prosecutor’s office.”
The murder case seems lost in limbo. But Niemeier says that could never happen. “No. Absolutely not. The case is either there or it’s here. We don’t leave homicides up in the air.”
Today, Douglass still wonders why no new detective has been assigned to lead the case, and she thinks a lot about how Jenai was the first of the four women killed.
“I wonder, could somebody else’s baby have been saved?” Douglass asks.