San Diego

Mistrial Declared in Murder Trial of 2-Year-Old Jahi Turner

The jury in the trial of Tieray Jones, the man accused of killing his 2-year-old stepson and disposing of his body, said they couldn't reach a verdict Friday.

The foreperson said the jury was split with 10 deciding Jones was not guilty and two feeling that he was guilty on the second-degree murder charge.

Judge Joan P. Weber then asked the foreperson if there was anything she could do to help the jury reach a unanimous decision. The foreperson said no.

Judge Weber determined the jury "hopelessly deadlocked" and a mistrial was declared.

The jury will return to court at a later date to discuss the case with the defense and prosecutors.

When 2-year-old Jahi Turner was last seen in 2002, his stepfather Tieray Jones was responsible for the child's care.

Police always suspected Jones in the child's death but it took them 14 years to get the evidence needed to charge Jones with murder.

Entries in a Jones' journal described how Jahi had fallen in the bedroom and hit his head.

However, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office has not found the toddler's body and admits they may never know exactly how Jahi died.

Jurors heard directly from the defendant who took the stand and testified he would never harm his stepson, who he loved like his own children.

Jones' lawyer told the jury there's no real evidence that Jones either killed Jahi or failed to get him medical care after an accident.

The defense denies the prosecution's theory that Jones panicked, dumped Jahi's body in the trash, and made up a story that Jahi disappeared from a playground.

Prosecutor Nicole Rooney told the jury, Jones' story that he turned his back and didn't see the toddler for a few minutes was a lie.

She reminded jurors that Jones admitted he misled police when they questioned him about Jahi's disappearance.

The prosecutor also recalled testimony from witnesses who said they never saw or heard Jahi in the family's apartment for three days before he was reported missing.

But prosecutors argued that circumstantial evidence and Jones' false statements support a guilty verdict.

Jones told the jury during trial last Monday that he refused a plea deal because he couldn't admit to a crime he didn't commit.

Jones told the jury that he could have pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter but didn't “because I didn’t do anything to hurt our son.”

Jones said the terms of the deal called for him to admit that he accidentally killed Jahi Turner, then panicked and disposed of his stepson’s body.

Prosecutor Bill Mitchell strongly denied that the District Attorney's office ever offered such a deal, and pointedly said Jones was misleading the jury.

Jones told prosecutor Bill Mitchell that he wants the jury to decide if he‘s telling the truth about what happened to Jahi, and if jurors find him guilty of 2nd-degree murder, he will accept the consequences.

Jahi's mother and Tieray Jones' ex-wife, Tameka Jones, testified as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution, after appearing earlier in trial, as a star witness in the prosecution's case-in-chief.

She followed Tieray's testimony and told the court that she believed his alibi for more than a decade but eventually came to terms with his alleged dishonesty.

"My life has been all about my son," Tameka told the jury. "I built my sanity and my life around my son coming home. Do you know how hard it is to know that that's not happening?"

Tameka choked up as she told the jury how she felt when she realized that her ex-husband had lied to her for more than a decade about what really happened to Jahi.

She also described how her hope of one day finding Jahi crumbled, as evidence mounted against Tieray, who this week admitted during his own testimony that he had misled police and Tameka about important details of Jahi's alleged disappearance.

Prosecutors theorize that Tieray threw his stepson's body in a dumpster in the family's apartment building on Beech Street, and fabricated that his about Jahi's disappearance. Tieray testified for three days and finished his time on the witness stand Monday morning.

Also, in testimony Friday, Jones told the jury he’d been “shot over this,” and accused of everything from “eating Jahi to selling him.”

Jones said he was shot in the leg in Fredrick, Maryland, in 2010 or 2011, after he returned to Maryland from San Diego.

He said that in the years after Jahi disappeared, there was much discussion and many rumors about what happened to Jahi, in the Maryland neighborhood where Jones and Jahi’s mother lived, and where Jahi was born.

Jones said he had to leave Maryland for North Carolina “because there was a bounty for my death,” by people in his old neighborhood who thought he had killed Jahi.

He was eventually arrested for Jahi’s murder in North Carolina 2016 and returned to San Diego to stand trial.

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