Placedo woman convicted of soliciting capital murder
Nov. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.
Updated Nov. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.
A jury found a Placedo woman guilty of hiring a hit man to kill her husband's nurse.
Kerstin Preis Jones, 46, was convicted Friday afternoon of criminal solicitation of capital murder and unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
For both charges, the jury, which deliberated for less than three hours, found that Jones exhibited a deadly weapon, a shotgun she gave undercover Department of Public Safety agent Jose Ramirez, who posed as the second hit man she contacted.
Throughout the four-day trial, the state tried to prove Jones eagerly hired a hit man to kill Yvette Garcia, of Port Lavaca.
Garcia met Jones' husband, Roderick Jones, at a nursing home. Garcia and Roderick Jones are in a relationship.
Kerstin Jones' attorney, John Urquhart, contended Jones was on an emotional roller coaster because Garcia was stalking and assaulting her as well as sabotaging her ranch on U.S. Highway 87 by cutting barbed wire fences and throwing poisoned bread onto the land for the animals to eat.
He also maintained the investigation was tainted from the get-go because Marcus Jackson, a DPS informant, cared only about getting his criminal case dismissed.
Jackson peppered threats throughout his conversations with Jones, which made her feel she had no other choice but to ditch her original plan of planting drugs in Garcia's car for something more drastic, he said.
The DPS should not have allowed Jackson to influence her, and more of their conversations should have been recorded, Urquhart said.
"If they're allowed to do this, what's next? Who's next?" Urquhart asked. "Send her home for Thanksgiving."
Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler, meanwhile, likened that defense to the plot of "The Wizard of Oz."
He told the jurors that if they pulled back the curtain, there would be nothing but "a carnie with a balloon."
Throughout the week, he played several videos and audio recordings of Jones shot by the DPS and Jackson. In one video, Jones counts out $2,000 for Ramirez and hands him a folder full of photos of Garcia and places where he might find her. About 45 minutes later, she is heard returning with a shotgun and prescription medicine, other ways of paying him for a murder.
"They (the defense) are playing y'all for a scarecrow, a tin man, a little girl, a dog and a cowardly lion. Are y'all those characters?" Tyler asked.
He said he didn't need to defend Garcia's character because the law doesn't say you can kill someone because you don't like them.
And although Jones was described as a longtime rancher and mother of six, the jury cannot let sympathy for a defendant sway them when determining guilt or innocence. Doing so would be ignoring the jury charge, which asks them to determine whether the state has proved each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, Tyler said.
He also likened Jones' ranch to Auschwitz.
"It's a place animals went to die," Tyler said, referencing some testimony and media reports about alleged abuse there.
Urquhart objected to the comment as improper, and Judge Skipper Koetter overruled his objection. Koetter instructed the jury to pay attention to their charge.
Jones is from Germany.
The defense appealed to people's fear of law enforcement, Tyler said.
"These (the DPS agents) are your neighbors," he said.
While the jury was deliberating, Urquhart asked for a mistrial because Garcia granted KAVU an interview after Koetter instructed her not to talk to anyone but the attorneys about the facts of the case until it was resolved.
No juror said they watched the newscasts that aired the interview, so Koetter denied the request.
The punishment phase of the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Monday.