Murder in the First

Malinda Jones Found Guilty and Sentenced to Life Behind Bars

by Becky Curry

The law finally caught up with the last of the Joneses this Monday when Malinda Jones, convicted murderer of Jarrod Davidson, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole at the end of the highly publicized case. Malinda Jones was a key player in the plotted death of 27-year-old Davidson, her former son-in-law, in a case that included an unplanned pregnancy and a murderous scheme involving a decoy potted plant and a fatal rifle shot.

Jones’s case was the last in a series of three. The first was for her husband, Philip Jones, who was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting Davidson. Philip is currently serving his own life-sentence in a state hospital, where he is dying of lung cancer. The second was for Malinda and Philip’s daughter Kelee Davidson, Jarrod’s divorced wife. Kelee’s sentence was held to four years in prison — her father made a plea bargain to exchange some of his sentence for Kelee’s reduced sentence. Malinda Jones was also offered a plea bargain but threw it out at the last minute and decided to plead not guilty, claiming to have lost all memory of the incident.

Before the sentence was handed down, the prosecution presented new evidence that directly contradicted Jones’s claim of amnesia. The evidence came in the form of a taped telephone call in which Jones recalled circumstances from 13 years prior; Jones recited an inventory of household possessions, including a coffee maker and a washer and dryer she didn’t want to go unused.

What the prosecution did not mention, and what defense attorney Robert Landheer used as a basis to apply for a retrial, was the Joneses’ motive for conspiring to kill Davidson. In his own trial Philip Jones testified that he had been a victim of childhood abuse and claimed that he had killed Davidson in order to protect his 3-year-old granddaughter Malia from a similar fate. Kelee Davidson had accused Jarrod of abusing Malia during a bitter custody battle, but an investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing on Davidson’s part.

Landheer was not allowed to use Kelee Jones’s claim that her husband was abusing their daughter after Judge Frank Ochoa deemed it irrelevant, explaining that the killing could not have been done to defend Malia from an imminent threat since at the time of the murder she was 90 miles away from her father. Landheer had argued this issue before, claiming that it left the court with a one-sided portrayal of the incident. At one point Landheer even tried to have Judge Ochoa replaced.

After all of the evidence was presented, including enlarged photos of the victim, which prompted some of the Davidsons to leave the room, both families made impact statements. “Just so people know,” Jarrod’s mother began, “there is no closure, just the hole in my heart that will always be there.” The rest of the Davidson statements were read aloud and addressed to Judge Ochoa, but many deteriorated to tears and unrehearsed statements of condemnation. Members of the Jones family spoke next, beginning with Casey Jones Johnson, the eldest of the Jones daughters. “She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” she said of her mother. “She is the most intelligent, passionate person I have ever met. I know she must have felt truly desperate to save her granddaughter.”

In addition to the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Judge Ochoa awarded the Davidson family $5,000 in damages. Malinda Jones has 60 days to appeal her sentence, and sources have indicated that she will do so. According to defense attorney Landheer, Jones rejected the initial plea bargain because it did not offer any reduction to her daughter’s sentence, as Philip’s bargain had. Had Jones accepted the plea bargain, she might have lived to see the end of a 28-year sentence. If her appeal proves unsuccessful, she will live out the rest of her life behind bars.

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