A Victoria County jury sentenced Raheem Davon Jones to 30 years in prison for the murder of Vonsell Ramirez.

The 22-year-old showed no emotion as his family silently wept behind him as the sentence was handed down. The jury deliberated for about 2½ hours.

Dederia Bates, Ramirez’s mother, addressed Jones after the jury left the courthouse. Jones maintained eye contact but remained stoic.

“I hope through all this you learn and appreciate your life,” Bates said.

She added that she forgave him, but she is angry that he is alive while her son isn’t.

“Your mother gets to see you and touch you and visit you,” Bates said. “I have to go to my son’s grave.”

Jurors could have sentenced Jones to either life or between five and 99 years in prison. The same jury of five women and seven men convicted Jones of murder, a first-degree felony on Monday. Jones was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $9,244 in restitution to Bates.

Marissa Martinez and Braylen Snell are also accused of Ramirez’s 2016 murder.

Jones’ sentence may be cut short for good conduct or once he is eligible for parole in 15 years. Jurors were advised to consider neither when determining Jones sentence, said District Judge Eli Garza, who presided over the trial.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Micah Hatley urged jurors to choose a lesser sentence for Jones.

“In a case like this there are no winners,” Hatley opened. “There are only losers.”

He emphasized that Jones never intended to kill Ramirez, and the jury should look at allowing Jones to mature while in prison. Jones’ actions should not define the rest of his life.

Hatley recalled the night Jones drunkenly hit a parked vehicle earlier this year, and his first reaction was to check on the well-being of the occupants.

“Even in the eyes of his worst action, you see the heart you’ve heard people testify about,” he told jurors during his closing argument.

He said a sentencing range is given to the jury for a reason, and they shouldn’t disregard the lower side.

Jones should have the chance to rehabilitate and return to society, Hatley argued. He should have the chance to be a father to his daughter.

Special Victoria County prosecutor Edward Wilkinson countered Hatley’s argument. The jury should look at a longer sentence.

“I don’t believe he would be a good father,” Wilkinson said during his closing argument.

Jones repeatedly abused his girlfriend while out on a $300,000 bond, he said.

Wilkinson said everyone who testified for the defense said Jones was upset about his indictment, not for murdering Ramirez.

“Not one person said he was upset with murdering someone,” the prosecutor said.

He urged the jury not to look at Jones’ life but to look at the life that was taken away. Wilkinson said to count the number of years Ramirez lost when his life was taken and how he doesn’t get the chance to mature and be a father like Jones.

“I want you to send a message to our community and say we will not accept this,” Wilkinson said. “I hope you send a strong message.”

During the punishment phase of the murder trial, jurors listened to 14 witnesses from both the prosecution and the defense.

One of those to testify was Vincent Phillips, to speak about Jones’ character.

Phillips, of Port Lavaca, served as the father-figure to Jones for almost a decade. Jones lived with Phillips and his wife.

“He was attached to us, and I was attached to him,” he testified for the defense.

Phillips made sure Jones had shoes, school supplies and anything else he needed for his extracurricular activities such as Calhoun County Youth Football.

Phillips and his recently deceased wife, Tiffany, could not have children of their own, but they considered Jones a son.

He testified that “never in a million years” would he think Jones was capable of killing a man. The way he raised Jones, he put an emphasis on structure and held him accountable for his actions.

“I believe that character built on early will take them through life,” Phillips testified.

He said that since the murder, Jones has not been the same person.

“I know all this happened. I love him unconditionally,” Phillips testified. “I know there was a murder, and I don’t love him any less.”

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate.  She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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