Judgment Day

Last Friday was high noon for two-thirds of the murderous Jones
family in a Santa Barbara courtroom as Judge Frank Ochoa handed
down sentences to Philip Jones, 51, and his daughter Kelee
Davidson, 27, for their roles in the execution-style murder of
Kelee’s ex-husband and UCSB grad student Jarrod Davidson. After
more than four hours of gut-wrenching impact statements from
Jarrod’s family and a highly controversial unsubstantiated
explanation of motive from confessed gunman Philip, final sentences
closed the book on what Senior Deputy District Attorney Darryl
Perlin characterized as an “emotional experience like I’ve never
seen in this town.” Terminally ill with lung cancer, Philip Jones
was sentenced to life without parole while Kelee was slapped with a
four-year sentence — with time served — for accessory to murder
after-the-fact and two counts of perjury. The third defendant in
the case — Malinda Jones — backed out of a plea bargain deal late
last year and is set to stand trial for murder and conspiracy in
March.

Friday’s session began with prosecutors moving to strike and
seal an inflammatory statement of mitigation by shooter Philip
Jones, accusing the murder victim of child molestation. Ruling in
favor of the District Attorney, Ochoa rebuked public defender James
Egar, calling Jones’s effort to trash the victim counterproductive.
Next came nearly two hours of emotional statements by Jarrod’s
immediate and extended family, beginning with his mother, Susan,
who said: “I will always live with the knowledge that my son’s last
words were ‘Help, help. They’ve killed me.’ I am stuck in a living
hell.” Jarrod’s older brother, Michael, added, “This cold-blooded
murder has absolutely destroyed our family.”

Dressed in his son’s hockey jersey and flanked by photos of
Jarrod with granddaughter Malia, Richard Davidson concluded, “I
have cried openly and secretly more in the last year and seven
months than I have in my entire life. The death of a child is a
parent’s greatest nightmare.” Davidson also urged the court to
decline Kelee her parental rights to Malia in the future, saying he
believed she was “personally responsible” for Jarrod’s July 2004
murder, which came just days before a San Luis Obispo family law
judge was slated to rule on Kelee’s ongoing illegal refusal to
allow Jarrod visitation rights with their daughter Malia. It has
been widely speculated by those close to the case that Jarrod would
have been awarded custody of his daughter.

Seen more than once laughing and smiling during the proceedings,
Kelee — recently engaged — remained stoic during her sentencing.
Afterward, in a statement read by her attorney Joe Allen, the
former daughter-in-law offered her “deep regrets” to the Davidson
family. In stark contrast, Philip Jones, seated in a wheelchair and
breathing through oxygen tubes, recited a partial statement of
mitigating circumstances that rocked the courtroom and delivered a
final insult to the Davidson family. Speaking in a slow, weak
voice, their son’s killer read, “I am very sorry to the Davidson
family for the pain my actions have caused … but Mindy and I did
not take the life of Jarrod Davidson for any other reason than the
safety of our grandchild.” Then, after alluding to his own sexual
abuse by his grandfather at a young age, Philip continued, “When
Malia told us how her Daddy molested her …” Judge Ochoa interrupted
the Jones patriarch mid-sentence, offering sternly: “This is
nonproductive, Mr. Jones, and inappropriate. I made my position on
this clear long ago.” A visibly upset Richard Davidson addressed
the media after court, responding to the “outrageous conduct of the
defendants and their attorneys.” He explained that during the 2004
custody dispute between Jarrod and Kelee, “the Joneses and their
daughter concocted a series of false charges against my son,
claiming he had abused and molested his young daughter. None of
these accusations was true. They were thoroughly investigated and
found to be without merit.” In fact, according to the Sheriff’s
Department, the allegations were tossed after a few short days of
investigation.

Also outraged by Philip Jones’s remarks was prosecutor Perlin.
In a statement given several days later, Perlin said, “The attempt
to paint Jarrod Davidson as some kind of terrible person was
inexcusable.” As for the final chapter of an overly long and ugly
family circus, Malinda “Mindy” Jones was scheduled to arrive in
court this week to begin pretrial motions in her own private murder
trial.

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