The defense in the trial for a man accused of killing his 2-year-old stepson more than 15 years ago received a small victory Friday.
Judge Joan Weber dismissed a felony child abuse charge against Tieray Jones, who is accused of killing his 2-year-old step-son in 2002, or failing to report a fatal accident that led to his death.
Jones now faces a single count of second-degree murder.
The defense made the motion for dismissal after the prosecution rested its case.
Judge Weber told the prosecution team she has long harbored doubts about the felony child abuse count.
Prosecutors have a "laboring oar" on that issue, said Judge Weber, who noted the lack of "substantial physical evidence" to support the child abuse charge.
The decision came the day after a child abuse expert testified that she was concerned toddler Jahi Turner died as a failure to receive medical care from an injury that could have been accidental or inflicted.
Defense attorneys for Jones argued that Davis never actually examined Jahi and that her determination that Jahi was abused was based on studies and one journal entry, not on any specifics in this case.
Weber also said the Jones case is "one of the most unique cases I’ve ever dealt with in my entire career."
Jones told police that Jahi disappeared on April 25, 2002, from a park in Golden Hills, at 28th and Cedar streets, when he walked to a vending machine to buy the toddler something to drink.
Jones said he returned 15 minutes later and Jahi was gone.
After Jahi's disappearance was reported, a huge search 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.
Jahi’s body was never found, there are no witnesses to the alleged crime, and no confession by the suspect.
Jones was not charged in connection with the death until 2016.
On Feb. 15, prosecutors acknowledged 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.
Witnesses previously testified they never saw Jones together with the little boy up to, and on, the day Jahi disappeared.