The mother of a 2-year-old boy that was killed more than 15 years ago took the stand as the trial of the boy's stepfather, the man accused of killing him, began.
Tieray Jones is accused of killing 2-year-old Jahi Turner in 2002. His trial began with opening statements Thursday.
Jahi Turner's body was never found but prosecutors said Tieray Jones was a prime suspect from the start, though enough evidence to charge him with a crime was difficult to gather.
Prosecutors acknowledged Thursday there is little "direct" evidence that Tieray Jones is guilty, but said there will be strong "circumstantial" evidence to prove he killed his 2-year-old stepson, probably in the family's apartment, and threw his body into a dumpster.
The prosecution will argue that Tieray Jones either killed Jahi Turner or failed to get medical care after the boy had a traumatic injury.
Jahi's mother, Tameka Jones, was deployed with USS Rushmore the day her son was reported missing. She told the courtroom Thursday about the phone call she received from Tieray Jones two days before her son went missing on April 25, 2002.
"[Tieray Jones] said that [Jahi Turner] had fell and bumped his head, that the cat scared him, and he had a little bump on his head but he put ice on it. He was fine," Tameka Jones recalled.
A prosecutor asked Tameka Jones about journal entries allegedly written by Tieray Jones in the following days that describe Jahi Turner as quieter and not as active as usual.
"'Today for some reason Jahi hasn't been moving or really talking', now was Jahi usually a pretty active two year old," the prosecutor asked Tameka Jones citing the journal entry. "Would it be unusual for him to not be moving or talking for a whole day?"
Tameka Jones answered "yes" to both questions.
Two days later, Tameka Jones received another phone call from Tieray Jones, she told the courtroom.
"[Tieray Jones] said that he had to tell me something, and Jahi was missing," Tameka Jones said choking back tears. "Can't find him in the park and police are looking for him in the park."
Jurors on Thursday heard the nearly 12-minute recorded 911 call Jones made on the day he reported Jahi's disappearance.
According to police, Tieray Jones told officers he was with the toddler at the park near 28th and Cedar streets when he left to get a drink for Jahi Turner at a vending machine. Tieray Jones said he returned 15 minutes later and Jahi was gone.
Attorneys for Tieray Jones on Thursday told the jury that police wrongly concluded that he was the killer and ignored evidence of his innocence.
Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell said Jahi Turner would've been 18 years old on Feb. 10.
"He was a healthy 2-year-old boy, approximately 35 inches in height, weighing 35 pounds. Only health issues were some eczema and possibly asthma," Mitchell said.
A huge search for Jahi ensued, including a week-long police search of the Miramar Landfill, where authorities took the extreme measure of systematically raking through 5,000 tons of garbage.
In 2016, homicide investigators arrested Jones and charged him with the toddler's death.
Jurors were seated last week for the trial that could take two months.
Though new evidence has been uncovered in the case, authorities have not found Jahi's body or remains, police said.