Daily Journal

TUPELO - A jury took four hours Friday to find 15-year-old Brett Jones guilty of murder in the stabbing death of his grandfather, Bertis.

Just minutes after each member of the six-man, six-woman jury confirmed the verdict, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gardner III sentenced the teen to life in prison as required by state law.

When asked by the judge if he had something to say before sentencing, Jones uttered a barely audible, "No, sir."

Immediately after the sentencing, six investigators and other members of the Lee County Sheriff's Office surrounded Jones and escorted him out of the courtroom. He will remain in the Lee County Adult Detention Center until the Mississippi Department of Corrections works him into the system.

Jones had claimed he acted in self-defense when he killed his grandfather, with whom he lived, on Aug. 9 at their home. But prosectors Rowland Geddie and David Daniels presented evidence that showed Jones as an angry young man who killed his 67-year-old grandfather by deliberately stabbing the man over and over.

Then, the teenager hid his grandfather's body in a utility room and fled.

"All along it was the opinion of the district attorney if this was anything it was murder," Geddie said.

The jury in the three-day trial had three choices: murder; manslaughter, which meant Jones killed his grandfather without malice or deliberate design; and not guilty. Defense attorneys Will Bristow and Rob Laher had countered that the child acted out of fear and in self-defense.

In his closing argument, Laher painted a picture of a youth cowered in a corner by an older, taller and heavier man wagging his finger in Jones' face and "saying untrue things" about him - something the grandfather had never done before.

As the defense's only witness, Jones on Friday described the Aug. 9 argument with his grandfather, which occurred as he stood in the kitchen, fixing a pimento cheese and potted meat sandwich.

"My grandfather came up to me and was yelling," Jones said.

Bertis Jones had tried to reach Brett's father at work and couldn't, the youth said.

"He got in my face, pointing at me; yelling how it was my fault about my parents."

Brett's father, Tony, had spent five years in prison for felony DUI. His mother, Enette, had divorced his father and married a man, defense attorneys said, who abused Brett and his brother.

The grandfather had yelled at him before, the teenager testified, but never like that day when "he pushed me. I pushed him back and he came in and swung at me. I pushed my hand out with the knife in it."

Under cross examination, Geddie took the youth through the day, asserting by his questions that the argument with his grandfather began earlier in the day after Bertis Jones found Brett in a bedroom with a girl.

The teenager denied the account.

As much as Geddie pushed him, the youth answered back with little or no emotion. In his summation, Daniels called Jones a liar and said the self-defense tactic wouldn't work.

Self defense requires that someone be in danger of bodily injury or death, Daniels told the jury. "Just because you get mad at your grandfather, that's not self-defense," he said.

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