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Claude Howard JONES

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1976 - 1989
Date of arrest: December 2, 1989
Date of birth: September 24, 1940
Victims profile: Allen Hilzendager (owner of a liquor store) / A fellow inmate
Method of murder: Shooting (.357 Magnum revolver) / Gasoline - Fire
Location: San Jacinto County, Texas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Texas on December 7, 2000
 
 
 
 
 
 


Summary:


In November 1989, Jones entered Zell's liquor store in Point Blank and asked the owner, Allen Hilzendager, to retrieve a bottle for him.

As Hilzendager turned to get the bottle, Jones shot him three times with a .357 Magnum revolver. Jones took $900 from the cash register and fled in a getaway vehicle waiting outside.

Waiting in the car were Jones' two accomplices, Kerry Daniel Dixon Jr. and Timothy Mark Jordan, in the middle of a multi-state crime pree that ended when Jones was arrested in Florida for bank robbery.

Dixon received a 60 year sentence, Jordan a 10 year sentence. Jones had spent much of this adult life in prison following numerous convictions in Texas and Kansas.

While in a Kansas prison serving a life sentence for murder, he killed another inmate. He served a total of 8 years on his life sentence.

 
 

Texas Attorney General

MEDIA ADVISORY

Claude Howard Jones Scheduled To Be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Claude Howard Jones who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, December 7th.

Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the November 1989 murder of Allen Hilzendager, the owner of a liquor store in Point Blank, Texas.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On November 14, 1989, Jones and two other men, Kerry Dixon and Mark Jordan, gathered at the home of Jordan's father.

Between 4 and 4:30 in the afternoon, Jones and Dixon left and drove to Zell's liquor store where Allen Hilzaendager was. Before they left, Jordan gave the men his Taurus .357 magnum revolver, which had been purchased by Jordan's girlfriend, Terry Hardin. Jordan stayed behind at the mobile home.

That same day, Leon Goodson and his 14-year-old daughter Wendy were busy working on their family vehicle at a friend's house located across the highway from Zell's liquor store.

While assisting her father, Wendy saw a pickup truck pull into the front of the liquor store. The passenger, who was wearing a light-colored shirt with long sleeves and had a "pot" belly, got out of the truck and greeted Hilzendager. Hilzendager placed his arm around the man and they went into the store.

The driver of the truck then turned the truck around on a nearby road, turned his lights off, and pulled up beside the store. Through a window in the front of the store, Wendy could see Hilzendager walk around the side of the counter.

Two minutes later, Wendy heard two gun shots in rapid succession, and after a short pause, she heard another. She then asked her father, "Do you think they shot him?" Mr. Goodson, who was on the ground fixing the car at the time, heard the three bangs, but dismissed them thinking that Hilzendager might be banging on some metal doors.

After hearing his daughter's words, however, Mr. Goodson stopped working on the car, stood up, and looked across the street. He and his daughter observed the man walk from the front of the counter to behind the counter, then out from behind the counter again. The door to the store was then pulled open and the man came out walking very briskly.

According to Mr. Goodson, the man appeared to be a white male, in his forties, approximately 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 200 to 230 pounds in weight, wearing a tight fitting gray jogging shirt and had a "beer belly." The man got into the passenger side of the vehicle, and the vehicle was driven off toward Oakhurst at a high rate of speed.

Several minutes later, after finishing the repairs, the Goodsons drove across the street to check on Hilzendager. After calling for Hilzendager, Goodson stepped up toward the counter and, through the storeroom door, saw the lower part of Hilzendager's torso and legs lying in a pool of blood.

Goodson immediately left the store, got into his car, and went back to his neighbor's house to call the ambulance and police. Goodson then returned to the store and checked to see if Hilzendager was breathing. After determining that Hilzendager was not alive, he waited for the authorities to arrive at the scene.

Law enforcement officials found the body of Allen Hilzendager lying on the floor in the doorway of the storeroom. He had received three gunshot wounds. Hilzendager received wounds to his right shoulder area under the collar bone, to his right lower abdomen, and to his back.

A crime scene expert believed that the first shot was the one to his upper left back, which resulted in a severed aortic artery and a punctured lung. The second shot, which was fired between 18 to 24 inches from the victim, was made as the victim held up his hands. The third shot struck Hilzendager in the side as he lay on the floor.

Hilzendager's sister, who occasionally worked at the liquor store, estimated that $900 was stolen from the cash register in the store. However, approximately $6,000 was left in the store in a bag pushed up under the counter near the floor.

Another $1,000 was left in a bank bag under the cash register. After the murder, Jones told friends of his that he had killed Hilzendager because he was gay.

 
 

Convicted murderer to be third executed this week; 40th this year

The Daily Texan

December 8, 2000

HUNTSVILLE -- Career criminal and convicted murderer Claude Howard Jones headed to the Texas death chamber Thursday night and notoriety as the 40th and last Texas inmate to be put to death in a record year for executions in the state.

Jones, 60, condemned for the 1989 shooting death of a liquor store owner near Point Blank in San Jacinto County, also would be third inmate to receive lethal injection in Texas in as many nights.

The total for 2000 would top the previous state record, set in 1997, by three and add to Texas' distinction this year as the most active state for capital punishment in American history.

Jones' appeals were rejected in October by the U.S. Supreme Court but the inmate Thursday filed, and later asked to withdraw, an 11th-hour state court plea seeking DNA testing of evidence. He made no clemency request to Gov. George W. Bush, who had authority to grant him a one-time 30-day reprieve.

Only once in his nearly six years in office has Bush used the power to stop an execution and that inmate eventually was put to death. Jones would be the 239th inmate executed since Texas resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982 and the 152nd during Bush's tenure as governor.

Jones, with nearly a dozen convictions and a prison record that stretched over more than 40 years, was condemned for the Nov. 14, 1989 fatal shooting of Allen Hilzendager, 37, at a rural liquor store about 70 miles north of Houston and not far from the prison that now houses death row inmates.

Witnesses and evidence showed Jones walked into the store, asked for a bottle of whiskey and shot Hilzendager while the store owner's back was turned, then shot the man two more times, including once while the victim's hands were raised. Then he grabbed $900 from a cash register, unknowingly missing some $7,000 in cash bags nearby, and jumped into a pickup truck to join two companions.

"He did not need to kill," Scott Rosekrans, the district attorney in San Jacinto County, said this week. "It was really kind of senseless."

Three days later, Jones held up a suburban Houston bank, getting more than $14,000 while his partners again waited outside. They used the loot for a weekend trip to Las Vegas. Nearly three weeks after that, Jones was arrested in Fort Myers, Fla., and charged with robbery and bank robbery there.

A single strand of Jones' hair was found at the murder scene and one of Jones' partners made a plea agreement to testify against him. Another accomplice led authorities to the Trinity River where the murder weapon was recovered. One accomplice, Kerry Dixon Jr., received a 60-year prison term. The other, Timothy Jordan, got 10 years.

"It's my personal belief that if (Jones) ever was paroled, there's a likelihood he would kill again and try to fine tune his robberies so as not to leave any witnesses," said Bill Burnett, who was one of the prosecutors in the case and now teaches criminal justice at Angelina College.

Jones, a Harris County native who refused to speak with reporters in the weeks leading up to his execution, first was convicted of robbery and imprisoned in 1959. Among his other multiple prison sentences was time in Kansas for robbery, murder and assault. While locked up there, he was convicted of killing a fellow inmate by throwing gasoline on him and setting him on fire. By 1984, however, he was out on parole despite a life term, records show.

"One of our arguments was ... he had demonstrated his dangerousness even in the prison environment," Burnett said.

 
 

Claude Jones

Txexecutions.org

Claude Jones, 60, was executed by lethal injection on 7 December in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a liquor store owner.

In November 1989, Jones entered Zell's liquor store in Point Blank and asked the owner, Allen Hilzendager, to retrieve a bottle for him. As Hilzendager turned to get the bottle, Jones shot him three times with a .357 Magnum revolver.

Jones took $900 from the cash register and fled in a getaway vehicle waiting outside. Waiting in the car were Jones' two accomplices, Kerry Daniel Dixon Jr. and Timothy Mark Jordan.

Three days later, the trio robbed a bank in Humble, Texas, obtaining $14,000 in loot. They then went on a weekend trip to Las Vegas. About three weeks after the liquor store robbery, Jones was arrested in Florida for bank robbery.

Jones, who also used the aliases Carl Roy Davis, Butch Jones, and Douglas Ray Starke, had eleven prior convictions in Texas for crimes including murder, armed robbery, assault, and burglary.

He served 6 years of a 9-year prison sentence from 1959 to 1963 and three years of a 5-year sentence from 1963 to 1965. In 1976, he was convicted of murder, robbery, and assault in Kansas and received a life sentence. While in Kansas prison, Jones killed another inmate. He was paroled in 1984.

Kerry Dixon also had a lengthy prior record that included murder and two prison terms.

The evidence at Jones' trial was conclusive. A number of witnesses placed Jones at the scene of the crime, including Leon Goodson, who heard the shots and watched Jones leave the liquor store. A strand of Jones' hair was found at the murder scene.

Also, Timothy Jordan testified against his partners in crime. Jones was convicted of capital murder and received the death sentence. Dixon was convicted of murder and received a 60-year prison term. Jordan received a 10-year prison term.

Jones' execution was delayed by about a half an hour because prison staff were unable to find suitable veins in his hands and arms. Executions are usually performed with an IV in each arm.

In Jones' case, only one IV was used, and it was inserted in his left thigh. In his brief final statement, Jones apologized to the victim's family and expressed love to his own family. He was pronounced dead at 6:42 p.m.

 
 

Timeline of Events in the Case of Claude Jones

InnocenceProject.org

October 1989 - Terry Hardin purchases a .357 revolver from WalMart for her boyfriend, Timothy Mark Jordan, who was on parole and could not purchase a gun.

November 1989 - Jordan and Hardin host visitors Claude Howard Jones and Kerry Dixon at a deer camp owned by Hardin's parents.

November 1989 - Allen Hilzendager is shot to death while working at a liquor store in San Jacinto County, Texas. Police officers arrive at the liquor store and collect crime scene evidence, including several hairs from the counter near the cash register and one from the cash drawer itself.

November 1989 - Jordan and Dixon are arrested for the murder after eyewitnesses place Dixon's beige Ford truck at the liquor store at the time of the murder.

December 1989 - Jones is arrested.

August 1990 - The prosecution alleges that Jones robbed the store and shot the victim with Jordan's gun while Dixon waited in the car in the parking lot. Jordan testifies that Jones confessed to the murder several times. Jones, who has a lengthy criminal record, does not testify. Stephen Robertson, a chemist at the Texas Department of Public Safety, testifies that a hair fragment found on the counter of the liquor store could have belonged to Jones but not to Dixon, the victim, or any of the other 12 individuals whose samples were collected. Jordan's sample was not collected.

August 1990 - Jones is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die. Dixon is convicted of capital murder and given a 60-year sentence. (Jordan was charged with capital murder and with a separate robbery in another county, but plea bargained both charges down to a 10-year sentence for a lesser offense.)

December 1994 - A divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 3-2 decision, upholds Jones's conviction and death sentence. In a strongly worded dissent, two judges conclude that the evidence against Jones is not sufficient to justify his conviction for murder.  The majority opinion cites the hair as critical physical evidence tying Jones to the crime.

December 2000 - State officials contemplate mitochondrial DNA testing on a hair fragment found at the crime scene and alleged to be Jones', but testing is never performed.  The possibility of DNA testing is omitted from material prepared by state officials for then-Governor George Bush to decide whether to grant Jones' request for a temporary stay of execution.  (Months earlier, Bush ordered a stay of execution in another death row case so DNA testing could be conducted.)

December 2000 - Claude Howard Jones is executed by the State of Texas.

May 2004 - Timothy Jordan signs an affidavit recanting his testimony that Jones told him he committed the murder. In the affidavit, he states that everything he reported at trial about the robbery and killing he learned from Dixon, not from Jones.  He also states that he testified against Jones in an attempt to receive a reduced sentence in this case and an unrelated robbery.

August  2007 - Mayer Brown LLP, on behalf of The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network, asks the San Jacinto County District Attorney's office and local officials to consent to DNA testing and preserve the evidence while considering the request.

September 2007 - The San Jacinto County DA denies the request.

September 2007 - Mayer Brown LLP, on behalf on behalf of The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network, files a motion for DNA testing and asks the court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the destruction of evidence.

 
 

DNA Tests May Show Whether Texas Man Was Wrongfully Executed

Legal Motions Filed to Hold Evidence for Testing

Texas Observer and organizations that address wrongful convictions today filed motions in state court in the case of Claude Jones, executed in 2000

InnocenceProject.org

SAN JACINTO COUNTY, TX

September 7, 2007

Advanced DNA testing could prove whether a Texas man was wrongfully executed in 2000, so a state court should issue an immediate order preventing local officials from destroying the evidence and should also order DNA testing in the case, papers filed today in state court said.

The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network filed motions in state court in San Jacinto County, Texas, today asking for a temporary restraining order that would prevent officials from destroying the only piece of physical evidence in the case – a hair from the crime scene – and seeking a court order to conduct DNA testing that could determine whether the hair matches Claude Jones, who was convicted of murder in 1990 and executed on December 7, 2000.

The hair, which was found on the counter in a liquor store where a man was shot and killed, was central in Jones’ trial and post-conviction appeals. An expert for the state testified at the trial that the hair was consistent with Jones’. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, narrowly upheld Jones’ conviction, in a 3-2 ruling where the majority specifically cited the hair evidence as the necessary “corroboration” to uphold the conviction.

“The San Jacinto District Attorney, who was one of the prosecutors during Claude Jones’ trial, told us this week that he will not agree to DNA testing without a court order. We are asking for an emergency order from the court that will mandate testing and prevent officials from destroying this evidence in the meantime,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “The public has a right to know whether Claude Jones actually committed the crime for which he was executed, and whether a serious breakdown in the state’s legal and political process led to a wrongful execution. Public confidence in the criminal justice system is at stake.”

In the days prior to Jones’ execution, his attorneys appealed to courts and to then-Governor George Bush’s office for a stay of execution so that DNA testing on the hair could be conducted. Documents later obtained by the Innocence Project through Open Records Act requests show that Governor Bush’s staff did not include the possibility of DNA testing in the material they prepared for him about the request for a stay of execution, which was denied. (The request for a stay of execution was being handled by Bush’s office during the period of the Florida vote recount after the 2000 presidential election.) Several months earlier, Governor Bush granted another death row inmate’s clemency request so that DNA testing could be conducted; at the time, Bush said, “Any time DNA can be used in its context and can be relevant as to the guilt or innocence of a person on death row, we need to use it.” Several weeks later, DNA results showed that the man, Ricky McGinn, was guilty and he was executed.

Other than the hair, the primary evidence against Jones was testimony from Timothy Jordan, who said that Jones told him he committed the murder. Jordan and Kerry Dixon were initially arrested for the November 1989 liquor store robbery and murder in San Jacinto County. Jones was later arrested, and he and Dixon were charged in the crime. In an affidavit in 2004, Jordan stated that everything he reported at trial about the robbery and killing he learned from Dixon, not from Jones. Jordan’s affidavit also states that he testified against Jones in an attempt to receive a reduced sentence in this case and an unrelated robbery.

According to the Innocence Project, mitochondrial DNA testing on the hair evidence could establish any of the following:

(1)Jones was guilty;

(2)the hair comes from the charged accomplice Dixon, which would strongly support a claim Jones was innocent (since Dixon denied being present in the store); or

(3) the hair came from the victim or some other individual, which, by excluding Jones and contradicting the critical evidence against him at trial and relied on by the appeals courts, would mean there was not legally sufficient evidence to convict Jones, much less execute him.

On August 31, 2007, attorneys at Mayer Brown LLP sent Open Records Act requests to San Jacinto County District Attorney Bill Burnett and District Court Clerk Rebecca Capers, asking for access to the hair evidence to perform DNA testing. Burnett denied the request earlier this week, two days after telling attorneys that he didn’t think DNA testing on the hair is scientifically possible (since the hair does not have a follicle) and that Jones confessed to the crime in his final statement in the execution chamber.

“None of the reasons the District Attorney has given for denying our request are valid,” said Innocence Project Staff Attorney Nina Morrison. “Mitochondrial DNA testing on this hair is definitely possible, and similar testing has exonerated several people who were wrongfully convicted in other cases. We don’t know what the testing will show, but mitochondrial DNA testing can and should be conducted on this evidence. The record from both the trial and the appeals clearly show that the hair, which is the only physical evidence against Jones, was key to securing and upholding his conviction. Eyewitness testimony in this case was shaky at best and did not identify Jones, and Jones did not confess to this crime in the execution chamber. He told the victim’s family that he hoped they would find closure and that he was sorry for their loss.”

“The bottom line is that Claude Jones was convicted based on the hair evidence and testimony from Timothy Jordan. Jordan has already said, in a sworn affidavit, that his testimony was false, and DNA testing on the hair could definitely show whether or not Claude Jones was guilty,” Morrison said.

Texas leads the nation in the number of innocent people who were exonerated through DNA testing after being wrongfully convicted. Across the state, 29 people have been exonerated with DNA since 1994. They served a total of 354 years in prison. Nationwide, 207 people have been exonerated through DNA testing, 15 of whom were sentenced to die, according to the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.

The Texas Observer, the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network are represented by Mayer Brown LLP in Houston and New York.

 
 

Fight the Death Penalty USA

Career criminal and convicted murderer Claude Howard Jones was executed Thursday night, the 40th and last Texas inmate to be put to death in a record year for executions in the state.

Jones looked at 5 members of his victim's family and spoke directly to them, saying, "I hope this can bring some closure to y'all. I'm sorry for your loss." Then he looked toward another window and said "Hey, I love y'all."Jones looked at the warden and said "Let's go."

He gasped twice, sputtered, gasped 2 more times and then exhaled. He was pronounced dead at 6:42, 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began taking effect. "Although the grief will never end, we thank God tonight for this time, that has brought to a close this part of the dreadful deed brought upon our lives, 11 years and 23 days ago, that took the life of our loved one," the victim's family said in a statement.

The execution was delayed by about 30 minutes because of difficulties finding a vein in either arm to insert the drugs. Authorities ended up using a vein in his left leg.

Jones, 60, condemned for the 1989 shooting death of a liquor store owner near Point Blank in San Jacinto County, was the 3rd inmate to receive lethal injection in Texas in as many nights.

The total for 2000 topped the previous state record, set in 1997, by 3 and added to Texas' distinction this year as the most active state for capital punishment in American history.

Jones' appeals were rejected in October by the U.S. Supreme Court but the inmate Thursday filed, and later asked to withdraw, an 11th-hour state court plea seeking DNA testing of evidence.

He made no clemency request to Gov. George W. Bush, who had authority to grant him a 1-time 30-day reprieve. Only once in his nearly 6 years in office has Bush used the power to stop an execution and that inmate eventually was put to death.

Jones, with nearly a dozen convictions and a prison record that stretched over more than 40 years, was condemned for the Nov. 14, 1989 fatal shooting of Allen Hilzendager, 37, at a rural liquor store about 70 miles north of Houston and not far from the prison that now houses death row inmates.

Witnesses and evidence showed Jones walked into the store, asked for a bottle of whiskey and shot Hilzendager while the store owner's back was turned, then shot the man 2 more times, including once while the victim's hands were raised.

Then he grabbed $900 from a cash register, unknowingly missing some $7,000 in cash bags nearby, and jumped into a pickup truck to join 2 companions. "He did not need to kill," Scott Rosekrans, the district attorney in San Jacinto County, said this week. "It was really kind of senseless."

3 days later, Jones held up a suburban Houston bank, getting more than $14,000 while his partners again waited outside. They used the loot for a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Nearly 3 weeks after that, Jones was arrested in Fort Myers, Fla., and charged with robbery and bank robbery there. A single strand of Jones' hair was found at the murder scene and one of Jones' partners made a plea agreement to testify against him. Another accomplice led authorities to the Trinity River where the murder weapon was recovered.

One accomplice, Kerry Dixon Jr., received a 60-year prison term. The other, Timothy Jordan, got 10 years. "It's my personal belief that if (Jones) ever was paroled, there's a likelihood he would kill again and try to fine tune his robberies so as not to leave any witnesses," said Bill Burnett, who was one of the prosecutors in the case and now teaches criminal justice at Angelina College.

Jones, a Harris County native who refused to speak with reporters in the weeks leading up to his execution, 1st was convicted of robbery and imprisoned in 1959.

Among his other multiple prison sentences was time in Kansas for robbery, murder and assault. While locked up there, he was convicted of killing a fellow inmate by throwing gasoline on him and setting him on fire.

By 1984, however, he was out on parole despite a life term, records show. "One of our arguments was ... he had demonstrated his dangerousness even in the prison environment," Burnett said.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)

 

 

 
 
 
 
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