Monday, November 10, 2008

An Unnecessary Death

A vibrant, well-loved, hard-working woman goes missing. An ex-con who should have been behind bars is arrested for her abduction and murder. It happens every day. In this case, a convicted killer was released after serving only six years in prison. It was just a matter of time before he killed again.

When Lori McRae walked out of a Jacksonville, Florida Walgreens pharmacy at around 1:00 a.m., on January 31, 1995, she didn’t know that a chance encounter would leave her dead. A postal employee, her shift ended at midnight. McRae was well-liked, dependable, and happily married.

Ex-con David Wyatt Jones had been smoking crack every day for months. He had little interest in anything except the next high. Unlike McRae, he didn’t work. He was a committed burglar, but would shoplift, steal, or even panhandle if necessary.

After work, McRae called her husband and told him she planned to pick up a few items at on her way home. Her first stop was Walgreens.

An employee later testified that David Wyatt Jones came into the store at about the same time as McRae. He was in “total contrast” to her — she wore black jeans, a white blouse, and a forest-green jacket. She was neat and clean with immaculate fingernails.

Jones, on the other hand, had “his shirt opened...and his body [was] full of tattoos.” He had a distinct spider web tattoo on his right elbow. He was dirty and smelled bad.

He followed McRae out of the store. In Jones’ confession, he said, “I saw her in the parking lot and I walked up to her and choked her and threw her in the back seat.” He drove her to a remote area near the town of Callahan fifty miles away. According to the Medical Examiner’s report, McRae was found with her jeans pulled down to her ankles and her shirt pulled up above her breasts. “Ligature strangulation” was ruled as the cause of death.

There was no doubt about Jones’ guilt. He was arrested driving McRae’s Chevy Blazer. Using her stolen ATM card, he’d withdrawn six hundred dollars from her bank account. Bank cameras caught Jones completing the transactions. He knew her PIN number even though she’d memorized it and had never written it down. DNA showed his blood on her clothes and her blood on his clothes. He confessed to the crime and took police to the location of the body.

In 1997, Jones was tried and convicted of the first degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery of Lori McRae.

During the sentencing phase of his trial, prosecutors presented evidence that David Wyatt Jones had previously been convicted of second-degree murder. In 1986, while serving time for burglary, Jones escaped from the Duval County Jail and murdered Jasper Highsmith. The escapee was arrested while driving with his victim’s body in the trunk of a stolen car. Jones was sentenced to 20 years in prison but released after serving only six. (While researching this case, I was unable to determine why a career criminal, prison escapee, and convicted murderer was released before serving his full sentence. One blogger stated that it was because of prison overcrowding and that may have been the reason. One thing is certain: had he served his full term he would never have had the opportunity to murder Lori McRae.)

This time Jones was sentenced to death.

Florida governor Charlie Crist has signed several death warrants. He has stated that he wants to execute “the worst of the worst” first.

David Wyatt Jones certainly qualifies.


Cal Hackett said...

His original crime , the first murder , waranted a much harsher sentence than the 20 years for 2nd degree murder. The question of how he got by with such a light sentence for that crime has never been resolved to my satisfaction. Why was he not convicted of 1st degree murder and executed for that crime. A weak old man from what I have been able to find out. They caught him with the body. what more did they need. Then the early release on top of that ! Lori should be alive today and I feel the federal judges who ordered prisoners released and state officials who failed to obtain an appropriate conviction and sentence on their first shot at him ,sentence him properly and insure he not ever be released , are nearly as responsible for her death as D. Jones.
Add to that the many different things that could have been done to safeguard her in the shopping center and the Walgrens that were not done and you have a true travesty. Leading to a totally needless death and for 4 young children , 3 of them mine ,the loss of their mother.
Any attention to this case is appreciated though your version is over simplified and includes details that could be omitted without making the story any less shocking.

Cal Hackett Sr.

Unknown said...

Plea deal. They were trying to save the state money and family time and stress from trial.

Shock said...

I cannot begin to know anyone's grief this has caused many people but I can tell you some good things about "DAVID WYATT JONES." I met David at my place of employment. He was a new hire. He did his job, kept his head down and was never aggressive or mean. I grew to become close to David. For about eight months we got closer and closer. I made the decision to move back up north. I remember going to his probation officer with him. He wanted to come up north as well. He was given permission. This is the David that I knew; he was kind and considerate. Gentle and loving. I never saw or heard him become mean or even raise his voice to anyone. He loved his Mama and he loved Willie Nelson. He was handsome, clean and always smelled good. Halston 1-12 was his cologne. I still can't walk through a department store without smelling it because it brings back memories of a man I thought I could love.David did come up north to see me and then he started getting phone calls from a woman in jail or what I later found out was his wife. Jackie Doll Jones. David and I talked about this. We both agreed it was best that he went back to Callahan to take care of his business. We both cried at the airport and I waited til he boarded his plane. I kept in touch and I even visited Jacksonville and always got in touch with David. By then, he had a young son. We spent a couple of weeks together and he had not changed a bit. He was the same kind, loving, gentle, respectful man I met three years prior. My question is this. Who did this to him? Was it the drugs "SHE" GOT HIM HOOKED ON? Where is she now? How is she paying for enabling him and being an addict herself? She had his child and wasn't woman enough to get help so she could raise his son? Why can't she be found by Google or why can't her criminal history be found? Was that all expunged for her and he got to die? She got arrested a few days before and me knowing David the way I did, he probably was lost and didn't know how or where he'd get his "next fix" because she always found a way for him to have it. How can someone like that not be held accountable for her part in it? Something happened to him because I could never picture him putting his hands on any woman in a violent way and yet, he did. I pray for everyone involved in that horrible event. I am sorry it came to something like that. I went on with my life and I looked him up a couple times but never found him and I NEVER thought to check prisons. I knew he had been in jail for petty stuff but chalked it up to him needing to mature some. I can never say goodbye. Had I known he was in prison I certainly would have wrote to him. God apparently didn't see it that way but my heart breaks because I don't know the man that did these horrible crimes. I don't know the David that did drugs and hurt people. I know the David that got dressed up and went to dinner, maybe a movie, a long walk on the beach holding hands, Laying on a blanket and starring at the stars, talking until the sun came up. We talked about things we wanted to be and things we wanted to do in life and laughed because the bottle of wine made us laugh more. He was not some monster to be feared when I knew him. He never did tell me he married her. He just talked about us maybe taking his son and my daughter to play and maybe have a picnic while I was in town. This is the David that I knew. He was a kind, gentle soul who went out of his way for me. I'll always remember him because he touched my heart. I will forever be broken hearted because I couldn't say good bye. These horifice things he did, I just wouldn't believe it if I had not read the depositions and saw his picture and birth date. See, I did not know a David Wyatt Jones that way. I am so sorry the rest of you did. So sorry and heart broke for the children who lost their mother and the husband that lost his wife.I pray for all of you.
I didn't know that man.