San Diego

Jahi Turner's Stepfather, Accused in Toddler's Death, Will Return to SD to Face Charges

Jones is charged with one count of murder and one count of felony child abuse causing death, authorities said.

The man accused in the slaying of his stepson, Jahi Turner, waived extradition at a North Carolina hearing Tuesday and will return to San Diego to face charges in the toddler's death. 

Tieray Jones has been charged with killing 2-year-old Jahi, according to San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman. His mother was deployed aboard a Navy ship at the time.

Hundreds of volunteers and police officers spent weeks searching for traces of the 30-pound toddler when he was reported missing in 2002. Law enforcement officers raked through 5,000 tons of garbage at the Miramar Landfill, but came up with nothing.

Jones is charged with one count of murder and one count of felony child abuse causing death, authorities said. Both carry a 25-years-to-life sentence. It wasn't immediately clear if Jones has an attorney. 

Jones will now be transported to San Diego in the next 30 days to be arraigned in the two-year-old's death. 

"Jahi's disappearance rocked the community to its core 14 years ago," DA Bonnie Dumanis said. "It's without a doubt one of the highest profile unsolved cases here in San Diego County."

Dumanis and Zimmerman explained that U.S. Marshals arrested the boy's stepfather on a fugitive complaint Monday in North Carolina without incident and took him into custody. 

Though new evidence has been uncovered in the case, authorities have not found Jahi's body or remains, police said.

The arrest comes one week before the 14th anniversary of Jahi's disappearance. On April 25, 2002, he allegedly disappeared from a playground at 28th Street and Cedar Street in San Diego's South Park neighborhood.

According to police, Jones told officers he was with the toddler at the park when he left to get a drink. Jones said he returned 15 minutes later and Jahi was gone.

However, officials were unable to locate Jahi's fingerprints on playground equipment, prompting speculation the child never visited the area, authorities announced Monday.

Officials say the last reported sighting of Jahi was April 22.

At the time of the child’s disappearance, Jahi’s mother, Tameka Jones, was deployed aboard USS Rushmore.

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.

Domanis said authorities could not file charges earlier because they didn't have enough proof, though they began uncovering new evidence in the case two years ago.

"We never gave up on finding justice for Jahi. In 2003, we assigned a prosecutor and full-time investigator to the case," Dumanis said. "Unfortunately at the time we didn’t have the evidence required: proof beyond a reasonable doubt, to proceed with criminal charges."

Jahi’s family eventually moved to Frederick, Maryland.

Officials said because this is a criminal case, they are not able to discuss any of the facts or the criminal evidence, including any new evidence they uncovered since the case went cold. 

Check back for updates on this breaking news story.

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