Placedo woman sentenced to 5 years in prison in murder-for-hire trial
A Placedo woman was sentenced Monday afternoon to five years in prison and assessed a $5,000 fine for trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband's mistress and caregiver.
The jury also recommended that Kerstin Preis Jones, 46, serve 10 years probation for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and pay a $5,000 fine later.
The jury found her guilty Friday of the drug charge and criminal solicitation of capital murder, both first-degree felonies that carry a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Because Jones does not have any prior felony convictions, she was eligible for probation.
Throughout the day, Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler suggested probation would not be ideal because a Texas judge could not enforce it overseas.
Jones is facing a five-count federal indictment after Department of Public Safety agents seized guns and ammunition from her home and her neighbor after she was arrested May 2, 2012.
Jones cannot lawfully possess guns or ammunition nor can she give them away to anyone because she is not in the country legally. Jones' six-month visa expired in April 1994, said Robert Noble, a special agent with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
She could be deported to Germany at the conclusion of the federal case, he said.
Charles Williamson, an investigator with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, confirmed that one of the weapons recovered, a Remington 7 mm Magnum bolt action rifle, was among a group of items Jones reported stolen in a burglary previously.
Williamson also investigated an assault Jones reported. While Jones had a black eye and swelling to her face, he found no evidence that her husband's mistress and caretaker, Yvette Garcia, or her family was behind an attack.
Kayla Preis Moore asked jurors to give her mother probation so she could care for her four siblings. She appeared worried by her mother's fragile appearance.
"My mom has always been taught to never look down. ... It's a family thing to be strong," she said.
Jones' friend Rociel Powers, of San Antonio, said that if her children were threatened, she would act out of character, too. Jones was a school bus driver, a vet technician, and she helped people with their taxes. She was in an abusive marriage, she said.
"You can be pushed to the limit that you explode," Powers said.
Stephanie Foster had only fond childhood memories to share of Jones, whom she stayed with at her ranch on U.S. Highway 87. She said Jones does not have a mean bone in her body.
"Everyone deserves a second chance," Foster said.
During closing statements, attorney John Urquhart, of Houston, reminded jurors that receiving probation is "not like getting a pass." Jones also did not hurt anyone.
"She is a two-time convicted felon. Her life is forever changed for the worse," Urquhart said.
Tyler said Jones did not hurt anyone only because law enforcement intervened.
"Show the same mercy she was going to show to Yvette Garcia," Tyler said, noting Garcia is a mother with a family who would miss her, too.
Garcia is a certified nurse assistant who met Jones' husband, Roderick Jones, at a nursing home in Port Lavaca. They are in a relationship.
Tyler said afterward that cases in which a defendant is so adamant about soliciting murder typically result in a higher sentence.
Jones' husband did not have an opinion about whether her sentence was too harsh or too lenient.
"I still think she did it, and she knows she did it. There's no changing the truth," Roderick Jones said.
Urquhart said this was the best possible outcome after receiving a guilty verdict.
"There was a lot of things missing (in the investigation). ... I think the jury understood he (a criminal informant) pressured her into this when she had a weak mental state," Urquhart said.
Tyler dismissed the criminal informant's drug case in exchange for his cooperation with this case.