Henry Lee Jones
was sentenced to death in Shelby County in 2009. He was charged with
killing a Shelby County couple during a robbery at their home.
Jury quick to decide next stop for
Henry Lee Jones: Death row
By Lawrence Buser -
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Thursday, May 14, 2009
After getting to know Henry Lee Jones over the past
two weeks, a jury took less than three hours Thursday to find him to be
among the worst of the worst.
The Criminal Court jury sentenced the Florida man to
death by lethal injection for the 2003 murders of Clarence James, 82,
and Lillian James, 67, who were bound and strangled with their throats
slashed in their Bartlett home.
For Jones, 45, the end here may be only the beginning
in his home state, where he is the prime suspect in at least two similar
“He certainly has done enough to earn the death
penalty,” said state prosecutor Thomas Henderson, who nevertheless said
the sentence means little. “As I told the victims’ families, this is not
going to change anything. He’s still alive and their loved one is still
Jones becomes the 35th Shelby County-convicted inmate
on Tennessee’s death row and 88th total.
Judge John Colton Jr. set no execution date because
automatic appeals will take years, beginning with a defense motion for a
new trial set for June 11.
“I’ve got to get on with my life now,” said Margaret
Coleman, whose mother and stepfather were the victims in the Bartlett
case. “My mama will be in my thoughts. Now she can rest in peace.”
Jones, who had once lived in the Bartlett area for
about five months, told jurors he came back to visit relatives in August
of 2003 before returning to Florida after a few days.
He sparred with prosecutors during the sentencing
phase of his trial Wednesday, angrily denying any involvement in the
murders of the elderly couple. Prosecutors told jurors they got to see
the same frightening man the Jameses encountered.
His co-defendant, Tevarus Young, testified that he
watched as Jones robbed and then brutally murdered Lillian James. He
said he also saw the body of Clarence James in a utility room in their
home on Bartlett Boulevard.
Young, 27, who faces lesser charges, quoted Jones as
saying “You know what time it is, old lady,” before killing her. Young
said he asked Jones why he killed her and Jones replied, “Because she
seen my face.”
Prosecutors Henderson and John Campbell were allowed
to tell jurors of the killing of 19-year-old Carlos Perez four days
later in Melbourne, Fla., because it was a unique “signature crime” of
Jones’ that helped establish his identity in the Bartlett case.
Stolen credit card purchases and other evidence also
placed him in the Melbourne area at the time.
Like the Jameses, Perez was bound, strangled and
slashed multiple times across the neck. The bindings were removed, the
crime scene was cleaned, he was left face down and he was robbed, just
as in the Bartlett case, prosecutors said.
One tearful juror was later seen hugging Perez’s
father, William Perez of Fort Lauderdale, who testified earlier in the
Jones also is the prime suspect in the 2002 killing
of Keith Gross, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, whose parents, Phillip and
Marjorie Gross of Long Island, N.Y., met privately with jurors who
learned of their son’s killing only after Thursday’s sentencing.
Both families said they now will push for Florida
authorities to prosecute Jones there.
“I’m going to tell Florida you have a free shot,”
said Phillip Gross.
Jones’ brother, Eddie Jones, also of Fort Lauderdale,
said he did not know what role if any his brother played in the Bartlett
He testified on his brother’s behalf in the
sentencing trial because, he said, “no one else in the family wanted to
Henry Lee Jones takes stand, denies
killing Bartlett couple
By Lawrence Buser - Memphis Commercial Appeal
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Convicted double-murderer Henry Lee Jones told jurors
Wednesday that he casually knew the Bartlett couple he was convicted of
killing but insisted he never harmed them.
And he blamed the guilty verdict on prosecutors, his
co-defendant and even his own lawyers.
Jones also told the Criminal Court jurors, who will
decide today on a sentence of life or death, that he “ain’t no hater”
and has no hard feelings toward them for their guilty verdict.
“I ain’t mad at y’all,” Jones said, holding his hands
out toward the eight women and four men in the jury box. “I still love
y’all. Y’all just ain’t heard the whole story.”
On Tuesday, jurors convicted Jones of first-degree
felony murder in the strangulation and stabbing deaths of Clarence
James, 82, and his wife, Lillian James, 67, who were found dead in their
Bartlett home on Aug. 23, 2003 — Jones’ 40th birthday.
Despite the pleadings of his defense attorneys, Jones,
45, took the stand and talked for more than an hour during the penalty
phase of his nine-day capital murder trial.
He cried over his childhood, he sparred with
prosecutors and he second-guessed his attorneys for advising him not to
testify earlier during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial.
Defense attorneys later told jurors that they had
seen “a broken man” who deserved mercy.
Prosecutors told jurors they had had the rare
opportunity to see a controlling, heartless killer who still enjoys
seeing the crime-scene pictures of his victims.
“I never murdered nobody,” Jones said emphatically,
swiveling back-and-forth in the witness chair. “Them people are lying.
... They only paint a picture of me as an animal on the street. That’s
Jones, one of 14 children who grew up without a
father in Cleveland, Miss., sobbed when he talked of older relatives who
he said beat him with belts, cords, hangers and water hoses.
After moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he went to
prison at age 18 for robbery and kidnapping, serving 16 years.
Jones lived in the Bartlett area for about five
months, not far from the James residence, and said he drove back from
Florida in 2003 to visit relatives and to pick up old mail.
Traveling with him was co-defendant Tevarus Young,
27, also of Florida, who testified in the trial that he watched as Jones
robbed and killed Lillian James in her home on Bartlett Boulevard.
Young said when he asked Jones why he killed her,
Jones replied, “She seen my face.”
Young said he also saw the body of Clarence James in
a rear utility room and that Jones threatened to kill him as well if he
ever told anyone what he had seen.
Young faces lesser charges in the case, which will be
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty because
Jones has five prior violent felony convictions; the murders were
heinous, atrocious and cruel; the murders were committed to eliminate
witnesses; and the murders were committed during a robbery.
Another factor is that Clarence James was over the
age of 70. The retired Memphis city worker who had a pacemaker was 82.
Jones is the prime suspect in two similar killings:
the 2002 slaying of Keith Gross, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, and the slaying
of Carlos Perez, 19, in Melbourne, Fla., just four days after the
Jameses were killed in Bartlett.
During the trial, jurors learned of the Perez killing,
which, like the Bartlett murders, involved strangulation, throat
slashing, bindings and a crime-scene cleanup by the perpetrator.
Prosecutors called them “signature crimes” that
establish the identity of Jones as the killer of the Jameses.
Bam Jones: How an alleged serial
killer from Florida came to Bartlett
By Trevor Aaronson - Memphis Commercial Appeal
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Aug. 4, 1981: At 18, Jones is
Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Police Officers Wayne Swenson
and Pat Woosley meet with 17-year-old Annie Mae Robbins. The night
before, Robbins tells the officers, she and her boyfriend, 18-year-old
Henry Lee “Bam” Jones, were fighting inside an apartment in Fort
Lauderdale. Jones had chased her off with a gun, forcing her to leave
her baby behind. She called police several times that evening, Robbins
says, but every time they arrived, Jones would flee. The baby is still
inside the apartment.
“She advised us that [Jones] was violent,” Woosley
recalls in court testimony.
Jones has a warrant for his arrest, Swenson and
Woosley discover, and the two officers arrive at the apartment about 8
“A man let Swenson in and advised that he was the
brother of Jones and said that Jones wasn’t there…” Woosley recalls.
“Swenson asked if it was OK if he could look around, and the brother
Swenson walks through the kitchen and into a hallway
that leads to the bathroom and then the bedroom. A young woman is inside
the bedroom, and two infants lay on the living-room floor. Inside the
bathroom, Swenson sees a shirtless man standing behind the shower
curtain. His 145-pound frame stands about 5 feet, 10 inches tall.
“I had him come out from behind the shower curtain,”
As Woosley stands back, Swenson searches Jones for
weapons. Suddenly Jones goes berserk, kicking and punching the two
officers as he runs for the door.
“Code 3!” Woosley radios, requesting backup. “Code
Jones knocks Swenson to the ground and barrels over
Woosley. But he isn’t strong enough to break free. From the ground,
Swenson grabs Jones and drags him down. The two men wrestle on the
living-room floor, kicking and punching, as the two infants lay next to
The brawling men stand, still
struggling against each other, and stumble over three chairs until
finally crashing on top of the kitchen table. It breaks beneath them,
sending both men to the floor once again. The woman who was in the
bedroom runs from the apartment as the yelling and fighting escalate.
Swenson and Jones continue to struggle against each
other as Woosley tries to separate them. She bites down on Jones’ hand.
He won’t relent. Backup isn’t coming, she thinks, and the fight is
lasting too long.
“It seemed like hours,” Woosley remembers.
Finally, three additional Fort Lauderdale police
officers rush in and pull Jones from Swenson.
It takes all five officers to subdue the 18-year-old.
Jones is arrested and charged with two counts of
battery on a law enforcement officer. He is released on bail.
Sept. 30, 1981: Jones burglarizes home
Fort Lauderdale police arrest Henry Lee Jones for
burglarizing a home. Witnesses saw Jones and another man running from
the back of the house as the owner returned. He is again released on
Oct. 3, 1981: The voice from the trunk
Just after 9 a.m., Henry Lee Jones and a male friend,
19-year-old Jackie Johnson, begin to look at vehicles at Johnny Harris
Pontiac, a used car lot on U.S. 1 in Fort Lauderdale. Joseph Giovanni, a
45-year-old salesman, meets the pair. Jones shows Giovanni $600 in cash
and says they are in interested in a used car.
“He claimed his wife had credit, had a car financed
with the bank, and they seemed like buyers to me,” Giovanni recalls in
Jones and Johnson like the cream-colored
1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. “They wanted to go on a test drive,” Giovanni
remembers, and the salesman goes to the office to grab the keys and a
dealer license plate.
Joel Kay, a fellow salesman watching from the office,
“You’re not going to take a ride, are you?” he asks
“Yes, they showed me money,” he replies.
“Boy, you better be careful.”
Jones gets behind the wheel, while Giovanni takes the
front passenger seat. Johnson sits in the back. At first, the test drive
proceeds as most do — a nice drive through a residential area near the
Then Jones begins to act peculiarly.
“What do you think?” he asks Johnson in the back.
He keeps repeating the question.
“What do you think?”
Jones presses his right foot hard down on the
accelerator. Giovanni, realizing he is in trouble, turns to the
passenger in the backseat.
“All I saw was the barrel,” Giovanni remembers. “It
was a black barrel.”
Johnson trains the gun on the salesman from the
“Keep it cool, mother (expletive),”
Jones says. “Keep it cool.”
Jones continues to drive for 10 minutes before
finally pulling into a vacant area with overgrown foliage. He orders
Giovanni out of the vehicle. With Johnson holding the gun, Jones bends
the car salesman over the car. He pats the man down and pulls out
Giovanni’s wallet, taking $40 in cash and several credit cards.
Jones opens the trunk and orders Giovanni inside.
“It felt like 200 degrees in there,” Giovanni
remembers. He can barely breathe. “I got the tool out that holds down
the tire and pried the lid open about half an inch or so to get some air
in the trunk.”
The car stops several times while Giovanni is in the
trunk. One of the stops is the apartment of 17-year-old Annie Mae
Robbins — the girlfriend Jones chased away with a gun in August of that
year. She is asleep when the Grand Prix pulls up about 10 a.m.
“Let’s go,” Jones tells her.
They are headed, Jones says, to Palatka, in Central
As they drive north, Jones and Johnson are in the
front seats. Robbins is in the back. From there, she can hear a voice.
“Hey, you guys!” she hears, according
to her trial testimony. “Let me out!”
Robbins asks Jones if someone is in the trunk. The
two men in the front seat laugh.
A short time later, Jones pulls the car into an
orange grove in Lake Worth, near West Palm Beach. He and Johnson open
the trunk and order out Giovanni. The car salesman walks 23 paces before
being shoved beneath a tree.
“I thought I was going to be killed,” Giovanni says.
Jones and Johnson run to the Grand Prix, where
Robbins is still seated in back.
“What did he say?” Robbins asks Jones.
He turns to repeat the last words he heard from
“Oh, my God.”
The trio then continue north on U.S. 441.
Oct. 4, 1981: “Don’t ask me no questions”
Florida State Trooper J.H. Cooper clocks the tan
Grand Prix at 75 miles per hour. It is 7:05 a.m., and the lawman is on
State Road 200, just north of Jacksonville, Fla.
“I gave pursuit and stopped the vehicle approximately
one mile north of the area where I had clocked it,” Cooper recalls in
court testimony in Fort Lauderdale.
Inside the Grand Prix, Henry Lee Jones wakes his
girlfriend, Anna Mae Robbins, who is asleep in the backseat. “I just got
pulled (over) by the police,” he tells her.
The 18-year-old from Fort Lauderdale
stops the car on the side of the road. Cooper pulls in behind the Grand
Prix with his cruiser’s light ablaze and walks to Jones’ driver-side
window. He asks the driver for his license.
Robbins asks her boyfriend what he’s going to do. He
can’t stay there, Jones tells her. “I’ll go to jail,” he says.
“He cranked the car up and pulled off,” Robbins
remembers, leaving the state trooper on the side of the road.
Cooper runs back to his car and follows Jones’ Grand
Prix. They reach 110 miles per hour, until Jones pulls off onto a dirt
road that leads to a pulp wood yard.
The Grand Prix continues at speeds of 60 to 65 miles
per hour. The state trooper then begins to slow down. Cooper knows the
road; he knows it is about to end. But Jones doesn’t. The Grand Prix
hits a series of railroad tracks, including a mainline, at full speed
before coming to a halt.
The engine is still running, Robbins would recall,
but the car won’t move.
“I’m scared,” she tells Jones.
“You don’t have nothing to be scared of,” he replies.
Jones takes the handgun from beneath the seat, and he
and Robbins run into the brush. They run for five hours, Robbins says.
Jones climbs atop a box car to see where they are. A helicopter, police
and dogs then begin to surround them.
They continue to run, nearing Interstate 95. Cooper
stops Robbins and arrests her. Jones continues toward the interstate,
hopping one fence, before finally being tackled by troopers near an
“Did you know that the car you were riding in was
stolen?” Cooper asks Robbins.
“I asked Henry where he got the car,”
Robbins answers, “and Henry said, ‘Don’t ask me no questions.’ ”
Jones is charged in Broward County, Fla., with
robbery, kidnapping, grand theft, possession of a firearm while engaged
in a felony, and carrying a concealed firearm
Feb. 13, 1982: Jones among five men who beats
While in jail, Henry Lee Jones is among five men who
severely beat another inmate, Santiago Yeio Vallina, leaving the man
with multiple wounds, an eye injury and a broken jaw. Jones, however, is
not charged criminally for the assault.
March 11, 1982: A brief escape
Henry Lee Jones escapes while being escorted from the
Fort Lauderdale jail to a hearing in Courtroom 354 in the Broward County
Courthouse. He is recaptured within hours.
March 29, 1982: Guilty of battery on a law
Henry Lee Jones is found guilty on two of counts of
battery on a law enforcement officer for the Aug. 4, 1981, fight with
Fort Lauderdale Police Officers Wayne Swenson and Pat Woosley. He is
sentenced to one year and a day in prison.
Sept. 2, 1982: Guilty of robbery and
Henry Lee Jones is found guilty of robbery and
kidnapping for the October 1981 incident and receives two 30-year prison
sentences to run concurrently. In addition, Jones pleads guilty to his
attempted jail escape and receives an additional five-year prison term,
bringing his total sentence to 35 years and putting his official release
date at the year 2017.
Oct. 13, 1982: Jones
becomes inmate 598515
Henry Lee Jones becomes an inmate of
the Florida Department of Corrections. He first goes to Baker
Correctional Institute, in North Florida, before being transferred in
and out of more than a dozen other correctional facilities. In fact,
Jones is hardly a model prisoner. While in prison, he is cited for 36
violations, including 11 charges of assault or fighting and a charge of
inciting riots while at Liberty Correctional Institute in Bristol, Fla.
His official sentence is lengthened by two years and nine months for the
A FREE MAN
July 1, 1997: Early release
Despite having a 35-year prison sentence, Henry Lee
Jones is released from the Florida Department of Corrections after
serving less than 15 years. In the late 1990s, Florida’s overcrowded
prison system gave early release to thousands of inmates, including
those who committed violent crimes and continued to be violent while
incarcerated. Jones is 33 years old.
June 16, 1999: Probation for stalking
The Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office charges
Henry Lee Jones with stalking, and after pleading guilty, he receives 12
months of probation.
May 31, 2000: The failed robbery plot
Flagler County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Deputy James E.
Burroughs watches as a green 1998 Chevy pulls into Palm Coast Auto Body
at 11:58 p.m. and cuts its lights. Curious, Burroughs drives into the
closed body shop and sees two men inside the Chevy. They are Henry Lee
Jones and Kenneth Leslie, a Jacksonville man 16 years Jones’ junior, and
they say they are on their way to Orlando.
When Burroughs asks Jones why they pulled over, Jones
says he is having car trouble. A light had appeared on the dashboard, he
says. But the deputy is unconvinced. If they were having car trouble on
their way to Orlando, he asks them, why didn’t they stop at a gas
station near the interstate?
Burroughs then questions Leslie alone. He confesses:
The two men had planned to go across the street, to the school, and
break into vending machines. He was just “along for the ride,” Leslie
says. Inside the car, Burroughs finds two pairs of brown gloves, and
Leslie confirms they were going to wear the gloves during the robbery.
Burroughs arrests both men, and upon searching Jones’
car, the deputy finds a tin containing marijuana and rolling papers.
Jones is charged with loitering and possession of
marijuana and drug paraphernalia. After he spends two days in jail,
prosecutors drop the charges.
Aug. 29, 2000: Battery charges
The Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office arrests
Henry Lee Jones again, this time for battery, though the charges are
March 21, 2001: 72 days in jail
Henry Lee Jones violates a restraining order in
Jacksonville, Fla., and is ordered to spend 72 days in county jail.
Oct. 10, 2001: He sees the car swerve
Near downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 2 a.m., Sgt.
Bill Johnston sees a gray 1988 Ford Fiesta swerving from lane to lane on
busy Broward Boulevard. He begins to follow the car. He can make out the
driver, who has thrown a punch at the person in the passenger seat,
causing the car to swerve.
Johnston then pulls up alongside the Fiesta. He sees
the driver punch the passenger again. The car then moves to the right,
toward the entrance to Interstate 95, and the police officer turns on
his blue lights to stop the vehicle. As soon as he does, the Fiesta
swerves again and comes to an abrupt stop near the guardrail. The driver
jumps out of the car and runs. The passenger, bleeding and screaming,
steps out as well.
The injured woman in the passenger seat was Brandy
Collins. The driver was her boyfriend, Henry Lee Jones, and he is now
running east on Broward Boulevard.
Johnston radios in the Fiesta’s license plate, and
Sgt. Dave Wheeler answers the call. He runs the plate number in his
cruiser’s computer. The Fiesta had been reported stolen in Daytona Beach,
Wheeler tells Johnston.
Wheeler soon arrives at the spot where Jones fled,
and the sergeant and his K-9 Axel begin to follow the man’s trail. He
seems to have gone behind the large Salvation Army compound on Broward
Boulevard and hopped over two fences to get inside. After cutting the
compound’s lock with bolt cutters, Wheeler enters with Axel. The dog
leads them to a white four-door Chrysler New Yorker. Jones is inside,
lying on the floorboards of the rear seat.
Wheeler tells Jones he is under arrest and orders him
out of the car. Jones stays put. “I stated I would break the window and
send in the dog, but Mr. Jones still refused,” Wheeler writes in his
After being ordered several times to get out of the
car, Jones appears to be ready to open the door. But then he stops and
makes a gesture that suggests he won’t leave.
Wheeler smashes the glass window and sends Axel into
the car. The K-9 takes hold of Jones’ left arm, and he finally opens the
door and exits the vehicle, Axel still attached to his limb.
Police charge Jones with battery/domestic violence,
resisting arrest without violence, grand theft and burglary.
But Jones escapes serious punishment. The Broward
State Attorney’s Office drops the most serious charges against Jones
because prosecutors believe they could not prove he knew the car was
stolen. Although a man named Jack Gilmore watched as the car was stolen
from Automotive Drive in Daytona Beach, he could not identify the car
thieves beyond his description that they were black men.
Instead, the Broward State Attorney’s Office proceeds
with misdemeanor charges for battery and resisting arrest. Jones pleads
guilty to both charges and spends 126 days in jail.
Jan. 10, 2002: “I need to know”
While in jail, Jones writes a series of letters to
Brandy Collins, the woman he was beating in the car on Oct. 10, 2001.
Collins, who is pregnant with Jones’ child, has not been visiting or
writing frequently. According to the letters, she also told authorities
Jones was threatening her from jail.
When Collins hadn’t visited or written, Jones sent a
letter to his niece asking her to inform him whether Collins was smoking
or drinking and whether she was going to the doctor.
“I need to know how is she treat (sic) my baby,”
Jones writes. “I am very concern (sic) about that.”
May 14, 2002: Jones accused of raping boy
A woman claiming to be Henry Lee Jones’ friend files
a complaint with the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Police Department. According
to the complaint, Jones and her mentally handicapped teenage son were
spending time together at an apartment complex. “They both started
drinking together and rode bicycles and walked around,” the police
Jones and the boy each took a Percodan, a narcotic
painkiller, and Jones then led the boy to an abandoned apartment
building where he said his girlfriend lives. There, they drank brandy.
“The Percodan and alcohol hit [the victim] hard and he was almost
completely incapacitated,” the police report states.
According to the boy’s statement, Jones wanted to
have sex. The boy objected, saying he was not “with this.” He tried to
leave, and when he did, Jones choked him. They began to have sex, and
when the boy tried to leave again, Jones choked him more. Finally, the
boy told Jones he would allow him to finish having sex if he relented
In all, the boy said, the alleged rape lasted three
June 25, 2002: Rape charge dropped
As it did in October 2001, the Broward State
Attorney’s Office goes easy on Jones.
Prosecutors decline charges related to the alleged
rape of the mentally handicapped teenager. In a memorandum, Asst. State
Atty. Lauren Covitz says she would have difficulty proving rape charges
— that the sex was not consensual — since the boy spent the day with
Jones and went willingly to the abandoned apartment. What’s more, Covitz
does not think she can prove sexual battery on a mentally handicapped
person since the boy, despite his mental incapacities, understood what
“[F]or a case to be charged as a sexual battery upon
someone that is mentally handicapped, we would have to prove that this
person did not even understand the concept of sex,” Covitz writes. “In
this case, we would not be able to do this as the victim has had sex
before and understood what it meant to have sex with someone of the same
gender as him.”
THE KILLING BEGINS
Sept. 9, 2002: “He said his
name was Bam”
Ken Walker arrives at Kitchens to Go, his custom
kitchens showroom in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Monday morning as he always
does. But something is different this time. His employee and friend, 24-year-old
Keith Gross, hasn’t arrived yet.
The day before, Gross wasn’t at Walker’s house to
watch the Miami Dolphins game, as he expected. Now that Gross is late to
work, Walker grows anxious. He calls his friend. No answer. Several more
hours pass, and by noon, Gross still hasn’t shown for work.
“I’m going over to Keith’s,” Walker tells his other
Gross lives just a few blocks away from the store. As
Walker goes up to the small house, he hears the living-room air-conditioner
running. The sound is immediately odd to Walker, since Gross had told
him he was having trouble paying the utility bill and was trying not to
use the air-conditioner.
Walker knocks on the door. No one answers. The air-conditioner
continues to drone. Walker then strolls around to the back of the house,
near the bedroom, where another window-unit air conditioner is humming.
Concerned, he pushes his face to the bedroom window, and through a small
opening in the mini-blinds, Walker sees his friend.
Gross is on the floor, naked and hog-tied. A sheet
covers his neck and head. His hands, pulled up behind his back, are
black, strangled for blood by the tight bindings around the wrists.
“I was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. I’ve seen a
lot of things in life,” Walker would recall during an October interview.
“But this, it’s imbedded in my head.”
Walker, having left his cell phone at the store,
rushes back to Kitchens to Go. “There’s something wrong with Keith,” he
tells his other employees. “Call the police. There’s something wrong
Walker and Gross’ brother Michael tell Fort
Lauderdale police no one should have had reason to kill the amicable 24-year-old.
But they both had suspicions about one person, they tell investigators.
Gross had been spending time with a man with a teardrop tattooed below
his left eye, they said.
“He said his name was Bam,” Michael Gross recalls.
Walker met Bam in July, two months before the murder.
Keith came over to Walker’s Fort Lauderdale home to borrow $20. He
brought with him a new friend. Bam had dreadlocks, gold teeth and that
teardrop tattoo. Walker immediately didn’t like him.
“Don’t ever bring that guy to my house again,” he
“Is it a black thing?” Gross replied. “You’re black,
too, you know.”
But Gross obeyed the request, and Walker never saw
Bam again, he tells police.
Fort Lauderdale Police Det. Mark
Shotwell identifies Bam as Henry Lee Jones. In fact, Shotwell questions
Jones following Gross’ murder, but despite the man’s long criminal
history, the detective does not focus on Jones as a likely suspect.
A possible reason: Shotwell firmly believed the
killer was gay, and by outside appearances, Jones was heterosexual. He
had a girlfriend and a baby. It’s unclear whether Shotwell, who declined
to comment for this story, was aware of the May 2002 rape allegation
against Jones. The investigative file is still under seal.
Whether the detective realized Jones was bisexual,
Shotwell was so convinced the killer was someone active in Broward
County’s large homosexual community that he made a public plea for
information. “We are looking for leads and asking the gay community to
help if they have any information,” Shotwell commented to The Express, a
weekly gay newspaper in South Florida.
All the while, Shotwell centered his inquiry on
Walker, the boss and friend who found Gross’ body. Shotwell examined
computer files and e-mail at Kitchens to Go and interrogated Walker
several times about his relationship with Gross. Walker, angered that he
was a suspect in his friend’s murder, kept pushing the detective toward
the man known as Bam.
“About that guy Bam, what did you find out?” Walker
remembered asking Shotwell.
“That was Keith’s friend,” Shotwell told him.
Shotwell cleared Jones. Months passed. It was nearly
a year before Jones allegedly killed again.
Later, after three more deaths and Jones’ eventual
arrest for murder, Fort Lauderdale police linked Jones to Gross’ murder.
His footprint matched bloody toeprints found at the
Despite now being the only suspect, Jones has been
not charged with Gross’ murder.
Aug. 22, 2003: Two dead in Bartlett
Tevarus Young wakes up to the knocking. He’d been
asleep in Henry Lee Jones’ beige Dodge Aries, and now a Burger King
employee is at the window. The man is looking for Bam.
Young is in Shelby County now, having driven from
Florida with Jones for a day and a half. He’d only met Jones a few days
before, at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Young, who goes by the nickname “T-Rex,” is homeless
and wanted by police for a February 2003 incident in which he allegedly
tried to firebomb his girlfriend’s house. Jones offered Young money for
sex when they were at the park in Florida, and the 20-year-old got in
They first went to eat at McDonald’s, and Young
stayed with Jones for several hours as he ran errands, stopping by pawn
shops and then at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, where Jones paid
tickets. Afterwards, Jones drove to a warehouse, where Young performed
oral sex on him.
That’s when the trip to Tennessee began. Jones told
Young he knew two women in Daytona Beach. They drove up and stayed with
them for a night, and then continued north toward Memphis, where Jones
said he had relatives.
In Memphis, following the knocking at the car window,
Young finds Jones inside the Burger King. He’s eating breakfast. They
soon leave, and Jones parks the car in an apartment complex in Bartlett.
Jones exits the car and crosses Bartlett Boulevard, heading to a house
with the garage door up. An old man is inside the garage. Young follows
“Hey, pops, how you doing?” Young remembers Jones
asking the man.
“Doing fine,” answers Clarence James, an 82-year-old
World War II veteran who retired from the Memphis Park Commission.
James tells Young he was waiting for someone to cut
his grass. Seeing the lawn mower in the front yard, Young offers to do
the work instead. James says no and asks the 20-year-old to put the lawn
mower in the back yard.
Young does so, and when he returns to the front of
the house, the garage door is down. He goes to the front door and enters
the house. As he does, Jones walks past with a rope and a towel in his
hands. Young then sees Jones throw 64-year-old Lillian, Clarence James’
wife, to the ground. She screams.
“Old lady, do you know what time it is?” Young hears
Jones say. “Do you know what time it is? … Where’s your money? Where’s
Young watches as Jones wraps a rope
around Lillian’s neck and chokes her. He then pulls out a knife and cuts
open her throat.
Jones hands Young a paper bag and orders him to
follow. They go to the laundry room, near the garage, where Clarence
James is lying in a pool of blood. His throat is slashed. Jones unties
rope bindings from Clarence’s arms and legs and places the ropes in the
bag. He and Jones then take the elderly couple’s valuables and leave.
In the car, Jones shows Young the knife. “I swear, if
you tell somebody, I’m going to kill you and cut your d — - off,” Jones
Later that afternoon, Jones and Young arrive at Auto
Corral, a car dealership in Batesville, Miss. Jones tells Michael Smith,
the car lot’s co-owner, that he’d come up from Florida and is interested
in a vehicle. He pays cash for a white 1993 Lincoln Town Car and drives
off the lot at 6:30 p.m.
Jones is behind the wheel of the Town Car, while
Young drives the Dodge Aries.
Aug. 25, 2003: His accomplice is desperate
Tevarus Young wants to get away from Henry Lee Jones.
They are driving the two cars south on Interstate 95, along the east
coast of Florida. Young is thinking about crashing the car, he would
later say during a court hearing, but he’s afraid he’ll hurt someone. He
starts racing Jones on the interstate, weaving in and out of traffic,
until he notices a police vehicle up ahead.
Young steps on the accelerator and drives the Dodge
Aries right up to the bumper of the police cruiser. Brevard County
Sheriff’s Det. Carlos Reyes immediately notices the Aries close behind
him. He flashes on his blue lights as a warning, and Young backs off.
Soon, Young speeds past the police car, and Reyes
makes the decision to pull him over. Young has in his pocket rings
stolen from the murdered couple in Bartlett, and as he pulls to side of
Interstate 95, he put the rings on his fingers. Young is fidgety and
nervous during the traffic stop, Reyes would recall later, and a few
minutes after the stop, a white Lincoln Town Car pulls in behind the
It’s Henry Lee Jones. He tells the
detective he’d just purchased the Town Car and was paying Young to drive
the Dodge back to Fort Lauderdale. He has all the proper documentation.
Reyes checks the backgrounds of both men and discovers an arrest warrant
for Young in Broward County, for the charge of trying to firebomb his
girlfriend’s house. Reyes arrests Young and tells Jones he can come back
in 25 minutes to reclaim the Dodge Aries.
But Jones doesn’t return for the car.
Aug. 26, 2003: A new victim
Carlos Perez is a 19-year-old day laborer who lives
in Wilton Manors, Fla., outside Fort Lauderdale. He leaves early in the
morning to look for work at Dependable Temps. It’s unclear what happens
later that morning, but in the afternoon, Perez and another man come to
the Super 8 Motel in Melbourne, Fla., about five miles from where Young
left the Dodge Aries the day before and near a gas station where a
credit card belonging to Clarence and Lillian James was used.
They drive up in Jones’ white Lincoln Town Car. Perez
checks into room 217.
Aug. 27, 2003: A body on the bed
The housekeepers at the Super 8 Motel tell owner
Ravindra Patel what they’d seen in room 217. Patel goes to the room,
opens the door, and sees blood covering the bed and a body wrapped in a
It is Carlos Perez, the 19-year-old from Wilton
Manors, Fla. He suffered from strangulation, cuts to the neck and a
What went on inside room 217 isn’t clear: According
to footwear impressions on the bathroom floor, there were at least four
people in the room the day of Perez’s murder. Five cigarette butts were
left in the room, and several of those matched Perez’s DNA. But the DNA
on one of the cigarette butts was a woman’s, and that matched DNA found
on Perez’s penis, suggesting the 19-year-old and the unknown woman had
sex at some point. Perez also had abrasions to his anus and bite marks
on his back. Marks to his wrists and ankles suggested Perez was bound,
possibly with tape.
Aug. 28, 2003: Police find Jones’ car
Detectives from Melbourne, Fla., travel 150 miles
south to Fort Lauderdale in an attempt to determine how Perez ended up
in a bloody bed at the Super 8. They learn Perez had gone to Dependable
Temps to find work the morning of Aug. 26, 2003. Outside Dependable
Temps, Det. Johnny Lawson of Melbourne notices the same type of car
hotel staff saw pull up to the Super 8 — a white Lincoln Town Car. It
has a customized Florida plate reading “69BAM.” The plate, while not
registered to the Town Car, belongs to a man named Henry Lee Jones. He
also works as a day laborer for the temp agency.
Aug. 30, 2003: Florida, Tennessee police
Melbourne detectives discover police in Bartlett are
inquiring about Jones’ vehicle registration in Florida. They compare
photographs of the crime scenes and realize the same person may be
responsible for all three murders.
Detectives’ closest connection to Jones is Tevarus
Young. He is still in jail in Broward County after being pulled over
five days earlier in Brevard County. Upon questioning Young in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida detectives contact their counterparts in Tennessee.
They secure a first-degree murder indictment against Jones for the
killings of Clarence and Lillian James.
Sept. 17, 2003: Fugitive hunter finds Jones
Following a brief car chase, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.)
Police Det. Chuck Morrow, a fugitive hunter, apprehends Jones on Sunrise
Boulevard, northwest of downtown.
In the trunk of Jones’ Lincoln Town Car, police find
of pair of Nike shoes. They match one of the footwear impressions made
in the bathroom of the Super 8 in Melbourne.
Both Jones and Young are extradited to Tennessee.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, suspecting
Jones could be responsible for murders throughout the Southeast, begins
to work with other law-enforcement agencies in examining unsolved cases
involving the killer’s alleged signature: bindings and cuts to the neck.
To date, however, Jones has been linked only to the
murders of Keith Gross and Carlos Perez in Florida and Clarence and
Lillian James in Tennessee. Investigators suspect Jones in other murders
but have not specified those cases.
June 24, 2005: The accomplice
Tevarus Young testifies against Henry Lee Jones at a
hearing in Shelby County Criminal Court Judge John Colton Jr.’s
courtroom, describing his car trip from Florida to Tennessee and the
2003 murders of Clarence and Lillian James.
Dec. 14, 2007: Violence continues at 201
Henry Lee Jones is accused of assaulting a cellmate
while jailed at 201 Poplar and is moved to another cell. In a report,
jailers with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office note the two inmates are
Aug. 29, 2008: Evidence from Florida murder
After hearing arguments, Shelby County Criminal Court
Judge John Colton Jr. rules that prosecutors may enter evidence in Henry
Lee Jones’ Memphis trial of the Carlos Perez killing in Florida, even
though Jones has not been charged with that murder. Colton declines,
however, to allow in evidence from Keith Gross’ murder, saying the
killing was “too remote in time” to be relevant to the murder of the
A precedent exists in Tennessee for allowing evidence
to be entered from a crime with which the defendant hasn’t been charged.
In 1950, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled unanimously, in Harris v.
State, that a woman was allowed to testify that she had been raped by L.
J. Harris in Memphis one week before the man raped another woman, the
crime for which he was charged.
“Sometimes to establish identity it becomes relevant
to show similarity of the plan or method by which more than one crime
has been accomplished,” the Supreme Court wrote in its ruling.
Nov. 13, 2008: Trial delayed
Agreeing to give defense attorney Robert Parris more
time to review evidence in the 2003 murder of Carlos Perez, Shelby
County Criminal Court Judge John Colton Jr. moves Jones’ trial date from
Dec. 1 to May 4, 2009.