Defending Your Life
Oct. 15, 2005
Washington state wife and mother was brutally
stabbed and murdered as she was preparing to take a
bath in her home, while her husband was just feet
away, in a nearby room.
Police immediately suspected the husband, who was
tried twice on murder charges. Incredibly, those
verdicts were overturned.
|Then, he faced a third trial and took a gamble by
three murder trials, and defended himself in
Would his strategy work?
48 Hours correspondent Peter Van Sant
oe Ward remembers the
crime scene after Lee Jones was murdered in 1988. A
homicide detective for the Snohomish County
sheriff’s office, he was sent to investigate the
"Mrs. Jones had received a lot of injuries to her
body, all over her body. She had over 60 wounds.
There were slashes. There were stabs," Ward
remembers. "It looked like she had fought for her
life in that room. And lost."
Ron Doersch also has ties to the case. He was the
deputy prosecuting attorney who tried Jerry Jones
Jr., Lee's husband twice before.
Jones told police he heard a noise, responded, and
found his wife. As he ran down the hallway, he says,
someone brushed by him and pushed him against the
wall. He says as he tried to grab the knife his hand
Ward calls the story "unbelievable."
"Detective Ward begins to realize it just doesn’t
add up and that he has the murder suspect right in
front of him," says Doersch.
The first trial ended with a guilty verdict, but the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1999 that
Jones’s lawyer had been ineffective and that the
case should be retried.
48 Hours began following the Jones
case after he was released, marking the beginning of
an incredible legal drama.
A second trial, in 2001, also ended with a guilty
verdict. Remarkably, an appeals court reversed that
conviction, saying the jury didn’t hear crucial
Doersch says the last ruling left him angry and
embittered. "As a prosecutor, there are certain
things about cases that resound in your
consciousness that affect you on some emotional
level. This was one of them."
Meanwhile, Jones, facing a third trial, decided to
A Family History
For almost 17 years, Kim Jones and her younger
sister, Beth, have been on a mission trying to prove
their father is innocent of slaying their mother.
"I loved my mother very much. And if I had any doubt
whatsoever that my dad might have done it, I
wouldn’t be standing by him like this," says Kim.
"There’s no way that he did this," adds Beth.
Both sisters say they have never questioned their
In 2005, Jones and his daughters faced round three
and this time, he would be represented by the man he
says knows this case better than anyone: himself.
Jones admits he didn't have any legal training, but
says he thought he could exonerate himself. "If they
can get a feel for me as a human being, then they’ll
be convinced that I am not capable of murdering
anyone," he said.
And he would be going toe-to-toe with the man who
prosecuted him twice before, Ron Doersch.
To try to ensure a fair verdict, this jury wouldn’t
hear about Jones’ earlier trials or convictions.
It was Lee Jones' beauty that first caught his
attention back in 1970, when Jerry was stationed in
Vietnam, serving in the Air Force.
Says Jerry, "I encountered the most gorgeous
creature I’d ever laid eyes on in my life."
He says it was "love at first sight."
They married in Vietnam, and their first child, Kim,
was born there. Within months, Jerry’s tour ended
and Lee left her family behind and moved to the U.S.
to start a new life. The couple had two more
children, Beth and Thomas.
Jerry retired after 20 years in the Air Force and
the family moved to Bothell, Washington, just
Jones’ daughters say their parents were in the prime
of their marriage. "They were always hugging each
other. They were always kissing. And they were very
close and very happy," says Kim.
Jerry became a successful pharmaceutical salesman,
while Lee was a busy housewife, raising three
On the night of December 3, 1988, Jerry and Lee were
at home with four-year-old Thomas. According to
Jerry, Lee had put their son to sleep, then went to
the hallway bathroom to take a bath. Jazz music was
playing from a radio in Jerry’s study, across the
hall in the master bedroom. His shower was running
in the adjoining bathroom.
"I heard this horrible scream. One loud, piercing
scream. I’d never heard anything like that before in
my entire life," remembers Jerry.
He says he raced toward the bathroom door and
recalls that, as he moved closer, he saw a knife
coming out of the doorway.
He says he recollects colliding with an intruder and
reaching for the knife. "And in the process, I
suffered some cuts. I’m knocked back. I hit my head
against the wall. Boom. Fall to the floor. And I’m
seeing these black and white flashing lights."
When he got up, he says, there was nobody in the
hallway. "I immediately went into the bathroom. And
I encountered the most horrible situation I’ve ever
seen in my life."
Jerry says he found his wife in the tub, struggling
and trying to speak. "I can recall this chattering
sound of her teeth."
called 911 (audio), telling the operator
his wife had been stabbed multiple times.
"Her eyes were wide open. And she was looking right
at me, and I realized that she was losing her life,"
Jerry recalls, crying.
Amid the blood and chaos, Thomas woke up. "I went
upstairs and I found my mother," he says. "She was
in the bathtub, and it was bloody."
Det. Ward was the lead investigator and says it was
one of the most violent murders he had ever seen:
"All I could see was that I had a wet and bloody man
with a hand wrapped in a towel, and a dead wife in
"We don't have any witnesses that saw anybody run
from the house. We don't have any DNA. There's
really an absence of any evidence of an intruder
murdering Lee Jones and then fleeing," Ward adds.
Jerry says he thinks police had already made up
their mind: "Lee is dead. Jerry’s at home. Case is
And he insists he didn’t murder his wife. "They
didn’t do an investigation that night. And within
two hours, I found myself under arrest for something
I didn’t do."
Prosecutor Doersch remembers his native Queens, New
York, neighborhood, where his parents owned a
delicatessen for some 35 years. It is a long way
from Everett, Washington, but for Doersch, there is
a close connection.
"I think Ron saw Lee Jones as someone similar to his
Mom," says Doersch’s wife, Mara Rozzano, also a
"My mother was an immigrant and she always spoke
with heavily accented English. She was about 5’4".
And her name was Elizabeth and everyone called her
Leah," says Doersch.
Doersch says he was determined to get justice for
As he began this third round in court, he was
feeling the pressure. What if Jerry Jones, a
self-taught lawyer-wannabe, who Doersch had
convicted twice before, won this case?
"That would be hard to swallow. That would be
tough," says Doersch, admitting he thought Jerry may
be a good attorney.
But Doersch believes his opposing counsel was also
his best evidence, noting, "The strongest piece of
evidence is Jerry Jones. He is still here. He is
He told the jury about Lee’s defensive wounds, the
blood spatter in the bathroom, and the cuts on
Jerry’s right hand that Jerry says were caused by
Jerry says the cuts were consistent with a defensive
move, but a forensic expert testified the cuts more
likely occurred when Jerry’s hand slid off the knife
handle as he allegedly stabbed Lee dozens of times.
Jerry countered with his own expert. "My
fingerprints were not on the knife, my blood was not
on the knife, and my DNA is not on the knife. How on
earth is it possible to stab someone 63 times and
yet leave no physical evidence whatsoever?"
Doersch says he thinks Jerry rinsed off the handle
of the knife, fully aware that there would be
The jury also heard that Jerry let crucial minutes
pass before calling 911.
Van Sant asked Jerry why he didn’t
immediately call police, while his wife was in the
tub, bleeding to death.
"I don’t get it either," Jerry said.
But Doersch says he believes he knows why: In the
midst of everything, Thomas came upstairs "not once,
but several times, as far as we’re able to tell. And
at this point, Jerry hands are already full. He’s
got a dying woman. He’s got cuts on his hands. And
here comes this kid."
Jerry took Thomas back to his bedroom.
"If you didn’t kill Lee, why in the world would you
have taken your young son back downstairs and left
him there when you don’t know whether or not the
killer is still in the house?" Van Sant
"Well Peter, you’re presuming, of course, that I’m
thinking clearly, coherently and logically at this
point in time," Jerry responded.
But Doersch insists there never was an intruder, and
that Jerry knew Thomas was safe downstairs.
But Thomas came upstairs again, and this time, Jerry
took his son to his next-door neighbor, Graham
"Jerry said that he was watching TV, he was hit over
the head. And when he came to, he found Lee bleeding
and stabbed," Smith testified in court.
Jerry told his neighbor he was struck on the head
while watching TV, but told police he collided with
the intruder. But he insists his stories aren't
"I didn’t tell two different stories. My response to
him was, ‘I hit my head. And when I got up I found
Lee bleeding all over,’" says Jerry.
It was only after he returned home from Smith’s
house that Jerry finally called 911, but he gave
them the wrong address.
Ward believes Jerry’s mistake was an intentional
delaying tactic. It took police ten minutes to find
the house and when they went inside, they discovered
Jerry, wet and bloody.
A forensic scientist testified to scenarios of how
the crotch area of Jerry’s jeans became stained with
Lee’s blood. Doersch says he thinks Jerry was
sitting on top of his wife, holding her down while
Not true, says Jerry. In fact, he says, if he wanted
Lee dead, he had his chance. It was during a rough
period in their marriage, when the couple separated.
Lee had attempted suicide, overdosing on sleeping
pills. Jerry found her and rushed her to the
The couple soon reconciled and their daughters
remember how their parents had gotten very close.
But Lee’s friends, Barbara Sleeper and Mary
McNaughton, say right before she was murdered, Lee
was looking for a way out. "Jerry and his daughters
can say anything they want to. He can talk about how
in love he was and that they, you know, were
reuniting and everything else. But I knew that she
wanted to get divorced," says Sleeper.
Jerry insisted he knew who really killed Lee, and he
was to put him on the stand. For more than 16 years,
Jerry has insisted that Daniel Busby is his wife’s
Doersch says there is no evidence that Busby, then
15, was involved. "There is no connection,
basically, between Danny Busby and the crime scene
that night. All the DNA evidence tends to exclude
But Doersch knew Busby’s tough-guy presence would
vastly complicate his case. He remembers thinking,
"He’s kind of a loose cannon and I’m concerned about
At the time of Lee’s murder, Busby was a friend of
Beth Jones, and she says he had a crush on her. She
also remembers him as a neighborhood loudmouth.
Jerry says Lee didn’t like Busby. "She didn’t want
him associating with Beth. Or calling Beth or coming
to the house. ...We know he has grown and developed
into a very disturbed, vicious, uncaring, brutal
For the first time in three trials, Jerry was
allowed to tell the jury about Busby’s troubled
past, a history of violence Jerry says included the
night Lee died.
He directly confronted Busby about his assaults
against ex-girlfriends, and threats to kill people.
"Would you describe yourself as prone to violence?"
Jerry asked Busby on the stand. "I have been in the
past," Busby answered.
Jerry says when he sees Busby, he sees a disturbed,
And he says Busby’s uncontrollable temper erupted
after Lee banned the teen from visiting and calling
Jerry claims an enraged Busby was looking for Beth
the night of the murder, but found Lee, instead.
"And he viciously stabbed and slashed and attacked
her over and over and over again that night."
But there is no physical evidence or a witness that
links Busby to the crime scene.
In court, Jerry asked Busby if he had ever growled
at Thomas like a lion or tiger to frighten him. "I
don’t recall," Busby answered.
"Are you saying that never happened?" Jerry pressed
"No. I’m saying I don’t recall," Busby replied.
Jerry claims Busby growled at Thomas prior to going
upstairs and murdering Lee.
But Doersch believes, if there was any growling
sounds that night, they came from Jerry himself.
Then there’s Busby’s long history of violence
against his girlfriends. He testified that he had
physically abused some of them.
And things got worse for the prosecution when those
former girlfriends took the stand.
"He was both verbally and physically mean," one
stated. "He would just kind of snap and change
personalities. He’d be so furious," another
ex-girlfriend told the court.
Doersch acknowledged that the women were sympathetic
people and that there was no question that Busby put
them through hell, but said Jerry was using Danny
Busby as a convenient scapegoat.
"On any occasion, did he, in your opinion, seriously
try to kill you?" Doersch asked one of Busby's
ex-girlfriends. "No," the woman replied. "Danny
never threatened you with a knife or any kind of
weapon, did he?" Doersch asked. "No," she answered.
Doersch says the challenge would be to draw that
line between Busby as a 15-year-old and as an adult.
"If the jurors decide that he is volatile enough to
have done this, well, then, the case is lost."
Kim, Beth and Thomas all agreed to testify on their
father’s behalf, and all wanted to help free their
dad. To do that, Jerry counted on their testimony to
put Busby at the crime scene.
Beth testified that Busby frequently growled at
Thomas like a tiger prior to the murder, and Thomas
testified that, on the night of the murder, he heard
a loud, growling sound.
While Beth, Kim and Thomas stood by their father,
Jerry knew it was his testimony, and not his
childrens’, that jurors really want to hear. So, as
his own attorney, he decided to take the stand and
come face-to-face with Doersch, a confrontation 16
years in the making.
"Once I knew that the case was coming back, it was
clear to me that there would be some sort of faceoff,"
But Jerry says he didn’t look at it as a match
between Doersch and himself. "I looked at it as an
opportunity to present the evidence to a jury of
twelve people and prove my innocence."
Before Doersch faced Jerry, a public defender
assigned by the court to advise Jerry urged Jerry to
explain his bizarre behavior after he discovered Lee
had been stabbed.
Asked if and how he got wet on the night of the
murder, Jerry testified that he heard water running
in the master bedroom shower and went to turn it
off, when he realized he was bleeding.
That’s not the story Jerry told at his first trial,
and Doersch believed he had caught Jerry in a lie
and whipped out transcripts, reading Jerry’s own
words back to him. "I open the shower door and
start reaching in and turn the shower off and step
in, clothes and all, I let the water run from the
top of my head down the front of my body,"
After just a handful of questions, Doersch
retreated, surprising Jerry. "I believe he was
fairly convinced that he had lost the trial,"
Why didn’t Doersch go after Jones more aggressively?
"Just because I have a stick to hit him with doesn’t
mean I’m going to hit him with it," he says.
But Doersch used that stick in his closing
"Exhibit one for the state is Jerry Jones, because
he is still here. He is still alive," Doersch said,
adding, "Danny Busby is offered up as the bogeyman
and he was not. And he did not kill Lee Jones. We
know who did. And it is Jerry Jones."
For the Jerry and his family, their long battle to
win his freedom came down to one final argument.
"Jerry Jones’ name is on that ballot, not Danny
Busby. It’s outrageous. It just doesn’t add up. I
had no motive. I was not a violent person. I was not
an explosive person. I’m the person you see standing
before you today," Jerry told the jury, emotionally.
But Doersch thinks Jerry’s tearful closing was
rehearsed, not genuine. "I think what the jury got
to see was Jerry Jones acting in closing."
And for the third time, Jerry Jones’ fate was in the
hands of a jury.
After a grueling three-week trial, jurors reached a
verdict in just four-and-a-half hours.
The short deliberation worried Doersch but, moments
later, the verdict was read: guilty as charged.
Jurors remember a tense courtroom as they filed in
with their verdict. "I looked at Jerry Jones. And I
looked at Ron Doersch. I think both of those guys
have had a very personal role in this thing for the
last 16 years," one recalled.
What was Jerry thinking as he heard the verdict?
"You just shake your head in disbelief and, ‘What on
earth are they thinking?’"
For Doersch, getting a third conviction was a
tremendous relief, and he believes justice was
served again. "It was served in 2001. It was served
in 1989. It’s the right verdict."
Jurors say they didn’t buy Jerry’s version of
"We went through everything and it just didn't fit,"
says one juror, who questioned Jerry’s explanation
for the cuts on his hand.
Jurors also didn’t buy Jerry’s story of only hearing
a single scream, as his wife was being stabbed 63
times in the next room. "I've lived in a split level
house myself. I could be downstairs and hear stuff
going on upstairs in the bathroom. I think there was
a terrible struggle. And, I think you would a heard
that all over that house," a female juror remarked.
The jury also thought the 911 call was off. "On the
whole 911 tape, he never cried," one juror remarked.
"And then, he would put down the phone and run and
go do this. And, put down the phone and run and go
do that. When you’re on the phone with 911, you stay
on the phone," another commented.
And what about Busby, the person Jerry claims is the
real killer? While jurors found Busby unlikable,
they also felt there was no real evidence linking
him to the crime scene.
"He was being very honest about the fact he had hit
a few women, he had pushed their head into the
steering wheel. He admitted to everything," one
It was Jerry Jones they didn’t believe.
Five days after being convicted, Jones returned to
court for sentencing and for the third time, his
daughters asked for compassion
"Everyone talks about how much we love our dad. But
they seem to forget how much we loved our mother,"
Beth Jones said.
But for Pam O’Keefe, Busby’s mother, Jerry Jones
didn’t deserve sympathy. "The evil started the night
Jerry Jones murdered his wife and the next day when
he accused my son of doing it."
No one knows how years of being vilified affected
Busby’s life, but his mother believes Jerry needs to
be punished for all the lives he has damaged.
When it was Jerry’s turn, he seemed remorseful. "I
wish Danny Busby’s name had not come to mind. I have
no reason to bring his name into these proceedings."
The judge then sentenced Jerry, for the third time,
to 25 years.
Yet, just a few months later, back in prison, Jerry
Jones is defiant once again. Asked if he owes Busby
an apology, Jones says, "No. I do not owe Danny
Busby an apology, and none will be forthcoming."
"I think it's entirely likely that, at this point,
he's managed to convince himself that he did not
commit this murder," says Doersch. For him, the
battle against Jerry Jones is over.
And Doersch is moving on: Instead of prosecuting,
he’ll be enforcing the law, as a deputy sheriff.
But the case that has consumed Doersch’s life for so
many years will be much more difficult to leave
behind. "I don't know that anything we can do in a
courtroom can really put the dead to rest. Clearly,
the family has been damaged, I think, beyond repair
by what Jerry Jones did. So in terms of whether Lee
Jones can rest, why, I hope she can rest. The rest
of us, I don't think can."
©MMV, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All
August 30, 2002
(CBS) Jerry Jones
spent a decade behind bars proclaiming his
innocence after being convicted of killing his
wife. And with the help of his devoted daughters
he got a second chance to clear his name.
But as 48 Hours reports, Jones' freedom was
short-lived. Two years after his release, he was
again facing murder charges.
In 1988, the
Jones family seemed to be living the American
Dream. Jerry, a successful pharmaceutical
salesman, and his wife Lee were raising two
teen-age daughters and a young son. But on the
night of Dec. 3, Lee Jones met a gruesome fate
when she was stabbed to death as she prepared to
take a bath in their suburban Seattle home.
Jerry Jones says he
is innocent of his murder his wife Lee .
Shortly after Lee's death, the stunned and
grief-stricken children were hit with another
tragedy: their father was being charged with
According to Jerry, the night of the murder he
heard a scream coming from the bathroom and ran
down the hallway to investigate. "And my vision,
my focus, my attention was just riveted that
it's a knife," said Jerry as he described his
encounter with an intruder that evening. "And we
just more or less meet in the doorway and
He claims he was cut on the hand and knocked
against a wall. When he came to, the intruder
was gone and he discovered Lee bleeding to death
in the bathtub.
His story didn't convince the local authorities.
"There was no evidence of anyone else having
been in the house or having left the house,"
said Detective Joe Ward who worked on the Jones
Jerry's story also failed to convince a jury. At
his 1989 trial, Jerry was convicted of
"He's been accused, convicted and sent to
prison...for something he didn't do," believes
Jerry's daughter Kim. She and her sister Beth
have fought tirelessly to clear their father's
They believe their mother's killer is a
neighborhood teen-ager, Daniel Busby, who they
say was obsessed with Beth.
Since Lee Jones' murder, Busby has been
convicted of more than 20 crimes, including
assaulting one woman.
But in the initial murder trial, Jerry's lawyer
failed to present any evidence about Busby. Kim
and Beth believe their father never would have
been convicted had that information been
available to the jury.
Two years ago, a federal judge gave Kim and Beth
hope. The judge set aside Jerry's conviction and
set him free, ruling Jones didn't get a fair
After a year of freedom, Jerry again found
himself facing a murder charge for the death of
Kim and Beth redoubled their efforts to fight
for their father. They raised thousands of
dollars for his legal defense fund, mounted a
national public relations campaign, and rallied
dozens of supporters.
Before the second trial, Jerry Jones was
confident because he knew the jury would hear
testimony from Daniel Busby, the man Jones says
is the real killer. "What's at stake is putting
to rest what has been a nightmare for us over
the last 12 years. Losing my wife, the children
losing their mother is a horrible thing," said
His daughter was not as confident. "For 12
years, I've lived my life on a roller coaster,"
said Kim. "I'm scared to death. I'm scared for
Prosecutor Ron Doersch planned to tear down
Jerry's story about his confrontation with the
alleged killer. He said the lacerations on
Jerry's hands the night of the murder were not
consistent with defensive wounds: "The cuts tell
me that he was stabbing her, the knife slipped,
he kept on stabbing her, the knife slipped, he
kept on stabbing her, the knife continued to
At the second trial, Daniel Busby was brought to
the stand and grilled by the defense lawyer over
graphic letters he wrote indicating his
infatuation with both Beth and Lee Jones.
Busby failed to crack under the pressure of the
witness stand but his testimony was seen as a
boost to Jerry's defense.
But would it be enough to sway the jury?
After two years of freedom, Jerry Jones is again
at the mercy of a jury. And his daughters prayed
they won't have to see their father taken away
for a second time.
After deliberating for just six and a half hours
the jury came back with a verdict: guilty. Jerry
Jones was sentenced to 25 years. Counting the 10
years he already served, Jerry could be eligible
for parole in six.
Two weeks after his conviction, Jerry spoke with
48 Hours from jail still proclaiming his
innocence. "If I had done the murder, I would
have confessed a long time ago and saved myself
and my family all of this agony," said Jerry.
"Everyone who knows me as a person and as a
human being knows I am...not responsible for