Murderers: Joseph Jones, 13, Harold Jones, 16, & Dorthia Bynum, 17
Victim: Tiffany Nicole Lang, 10
Crime location: Burlington
Crime date: October 16, 1998
Crimes: Kidnapping, gang-rape, rape of a child, & murder
Weapons: Wooden bed rail & coaxial wire
Murder method: Beating & strangling
Convictions: Bynum–guilty plea to second-degree murder, rape, kidnapping, and first-degree sex offense; H. Jones–first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree forcible rape, first-degree statutory sexual offense, & two counts of first-degree forcible sexual offense; J. Jones–first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree sexual offense, and first-degree kidnapping
Sentence: Bynum-124 years; H. Jones-life without parole (LWOP) plus 30 years; J. Jones-life without parole (LWOP) plus 300-369 months;
Joseph Jones, 13, his uncle Harold Jones, 16, and Harold’s girlfriend Dortia Bynum, 17, lured Tiffany to a vacant house where they gang-raped her and then murdered her. J.Jones and Bynum beat her on the head with a bed rail, but when that didn’t work, J.Jones strangled her. All three assailants are in prison for life.
Court of Appeals of North Carolina.
STATE of North Carolina, v. Joseph Osmar JONES.
Decided: December 18, 2001
On 16 October 1998, Tiffany telephoned her grandmother around 3:30 p.m. and got permission to visit a neighborhood friend. When Mrs. Long returned from work around 6:00 p.m., Tiffany was not at home. Mrs. Long contacted several people in the neighborhood in an effort to locate her granddaughter. Many of the children later testified they saw Tiffany with defendant during the afternoon, and that the two were walking toward 614 Lakeside Avenue, where defendant, Harold Jones, and Dorthia Bynum used to live. Mrs. Long’s efforts to locate Tiffany failed, so she called the police around 8:00 p.m.
After a police search of the area, Tiffany Long’s body was discovered under a heavy cloth in the backyard of 614 Lakeside Avenue. A TV cable was looped around her neck, and her shirt was stained with fecal matter. S.B.I. Crime Scene Specialist William Lemons found a pool of blood in the right front bedroom and drag marks in the house and on a path outside the house. He found a backpack purse by the back porch, later identified as Tiffany’s, which contained, among other things, church “bus bucks,” candy, an earring, and a note which read “Dorthia loves Harold.” Agent Lemons found a blue and white coat and a pair of panties outside the fence of the backyard, as well as a bloody bed rail. Agent Lemons also noted the presence of footprints and bicycle tire tracks in the blood trail.
Examination of Tiffany’s corpse showed that she had lacerations on her head, wounds from the back of her head down to her skull, and ligature marks around her neck, which indicated strangulation. Dr. John Butts, the Chief Medical Examiner of North Carolina and an expert in forensic pathology, determined that the cause of Tiffany’s death was “blows to the head that broke, cracked the skull, caused bruising and bleeding over the brain and within the brain.” He also opined that the lacerations on Tiffany’s head were caused by a heavy object with a narrow edge. Additionally, Tiffany’s vagina and rectum showed signs of trauma.
A pubic hair with an attached root was recovered from Tiffany’s body, and examination determined that the DNA matched that of defendant. A pair of light blue Tommy Hilfiger jeans seized from defendant’s bedroom had blood stains; testing revealed that the blood was Tiffany’s.
After discovering Tiffany Long’s body, the police interviewed many witnesses, who stated that they saw defendant wearing the light blue jeans at a local park on 16 October 1998. Witnesses also saw Dorthia Bynum and Harold Jones at the park that day. On 17 October 1998, Al-Neisa Jones consented to a police search of her apartment. Police seized a black t-shirt believed to have been worn by defendant, as well as defendant’s bicycle, the light blue Tommy Hilfiger jeans, and a pair of boxer shorts. The clothing appeared to have fecal matter on them, and that suspicion was later confirmed by Dr. Butts’ investigation.
Defendant was interviewed but not taken into custody at the police station on 17 October 1998. After the interview he went home with his aunt, Al-Neisa Jones. During the interview, defendant stated that he had not seen Tiffany Long on 16 October 1998, nor had he been at 614 Lakeside Avenue, his previous home. When asked where he was during the evening hours of 16 October 1998, defendant said he attended a football game.
On 19 October 1998, a teacher alerted police that Dorthia Bynum made comments about Tiffany Long being killed by a TV cable cord. As this information had not been made public, the police suspected her of perpetrating the crime. She was taken into custody and gave a statement; she was then charged with first degree murder, first degree kidnapping, and first degree sexual offense.
On 21 October 1998, defendant was taken into police custody and interviewed in the presence of his aunt. He was advised of his rights both orally and in writing; he waived his rights and stated that he fully understood them. Defendant gave a statement, which was re-read to him sentence by sentence. Upon reviewing it, he signed it. In the statement, defendant said he brought Tiffany to 614 Lakeside Avenue after being requested to do so by Dorthia Bynum. Once there, he admitted to placing his penis in Tiffany’s rectum and being present when Tiffany was hit on the head with the bed rail. He also stated that he helped drag Tiffany’s body outside and threw the bed rail over the fence in the backyard. He stated that Dorthia Bynum and “Fat Boy” were participants in the murder. He also indicated that “Fat Boy” sodomized Tiffany, causing her to defecate. According to defendant, “Fat Boy” then strangled her with the TV cable, and hit her repeatedly on the head with the bed rail.
After the police interview, defendant was charged with one count of first degree murder, two counts of first degree sexual offense, and one count of first degree kidnapping. On 23 November 1998, the trial court held a hearing to determine whether defendant should be transferred to the superior court for trial as an adult. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found probable cause to believe defendant committed a Class A felony (first degree murder), and signed an order transferring defendant to superior court for trial as an adult, pursuant to N.C. Gen.Stat. § 7A-608 (1995).
On 25 November 1998, defendant appealed the trial court’s decision to transfer him to superior court. On 30 November 1998, defendant filed a petition for writ of supersedeas under Rule 23 and a motion for a temporary stay to delay execution of the trial court’s transfer order. On 30 November 1998, this Court denied defendant’s motion for a temporary stay and stated that a ruling on the petition for writ of supersedeas would be made “upon the filing of a response to the petition or the expiration of the time for the filing of a response, if none is filed.”
The State filed a motion to dismiss defendant’s appeal on 16 December 1998; this Court denied the motion on 18 December 1998. Defendant’s petition for writ of supersedeas was denied on the same date. Subsequently, on 7 September 1999, defendant was indicted on one count of first degree murder, two counts of first degree sexual offense, and one count of first degree kidnapping.
The trial court conducted a suppression hearing on 29 November 1999 to evaluate defendant’s waiver of his Miranda rights and his rights under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 7A-595 (1995). On 30 November 1999, the trial court determined that none of defendant’s rights under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 7A-595, N.C. Gen.Stat. Chapter 15, or the federal or state constitutions were violated. The trial court also found that defendant’s aunt was his “guardian” under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 7A-595, and that she was present during his interrogation. Defendant’s motion to change venue from Alamance County to Cumberland County was granted, and defendant’s jury trial took place at the 14 February 2000 Criminal Session of Cumberland County Superior Court.
During its presentation of evidence, the State called twenty-seven witnesses, including Tiffany’s grandmother. Mrs. Long testified that Tiffany was not interested in boys and that she bathed every day, thereby rebutting defendant’s claim that his pubic hair got on Tiffany’s body the day before she died. The State extracted voluminous testimony from neighborhood witnesses who saw defendant with Tiffany Long the day of her death, and then presented several law enforcement officers who investigated the murder. The jury also heard testimony from Dr. John Butts, the State’s Chief Medical Examiner, who performed the autopsy on Tiffany Long’s body.
Defendant was the sole defense witness called to testify. He testified on his own behalf and stated that Dorthia Bynum told him to bring Tiffany to the Lakeside Avenue house because she had to talk to her. Defendant denied that he sexually assaulted Tiffany, but did state that Harold Jones sodomized her. Defendant said he was present when Tiffany was murdered, but maintained that Dorthia, not Harold, performed the murder. Defendant said he covered up for Harold because he wanted to keep him out of trouble. He repudiated parts of his earlier statement to police and admitted lying to the police during previous conversations. Defendant also testified he had consensual sex with Tiffany on 15 October 1998, which accounted for his pubic hair being on her body.
During the rebuttal stage of the trial, the State called Dr. Sharon Cooper, an expert in developmental and forensic pediatrics, to testify about her knowledge of Tiffany Long’s medical records and her behaviors. Dr. Cooper testified that Tiffany appeared to have been sexually abused in the past, as she did not have a hymen and had not had one for some time. Dr. Cooper then discussed sexual abuse and its effect on children in general, as well as the impact such abuse had on Tiffany Long before her death.
On 23 February 2000, defendant was found guilty of one count of first degree murder, two counts of first degree sexual offense, and first degree kidnapping. Defendant was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first degree murder verdict, and to 300-369 months’ imprisonment for the other crimes. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred by (I) denying his motion to suppress his statement, as a violation of his right to avoid self-incrimination under the federal and state constitutions; (II) admitting the testimony of Dr. Sharon Cooper; (III) denying his motion to dismiss; and (IV) transferring the case from juvenile court to superior court. For the reasons set forth, we disagree with defendant’s arguments and find no error in his conviction.
Initially, we note that this case arose when our State’s Juvenile Code was codified as Chapter 7A of the North Carolina General Statutes. The entire Juvenile Code underwent extensive revision and was renumbered as Chapter 7B of our General Statutes, effective 1 July 1999. 1998 N.C. Sess. Laws ch. 202. The offense was committed in October 1998, prior to the effective date of the revisions. Hence, all references herein will be to statutory provisions in effect in 1998.
Court of Appeals of North Carolina.
STATE of North Carolina v. Harold Wesley JONES, Defendant.
Decided: October 15, 2002
The evidence tended to establish the following. At the time of the offense defendant was sixteen years old and had been living with his twenty-three-year-old sister Al-Nesia Jones and his thirteen-year-old nephew J.J. Defendant moved in with his sister following the death of his mother in 1997, leaving his father, who continued living in New Jersey. Until 29 September 1998, defendant lived in a rental house located at 614 Lakeside Avenue in Burlington, approximately one block away from the victim’s home. However, on 16 October 1998, defendant was living on Morningside Drive in Burlington. Defendant’s seventeen-year-old girlfriend, D.B., frequently visited defendant and occasionally lived with him and the other members of his family. Consequently, the defendant, D.B., and J.J. all knew the ten-year-old, female victim, T.L.
After school on 16 October 1998, defendant, D.B. and J.J. went to Elmira Park near Lakeside Avenue in Burlington. Defendant and D.B. watched from the Elmira Recreation Center while J.J. played football with some of his friends. At some point in the afternoon, the victim walked by the park and recreation center on her way home from a local convenience store. Defendant and D.B. followed the victim away from the park on foot, in the direction of Lakeside Avenue. J.J. left the park a short time later, also in the direction of Lakeside Avenue. J.J. caught up with the victim sometime thereafter and accompanied her to the house located at 614 Lakeside Avenue, which had been vacant and under repair since defendant and his family moved out.
Once the defendant, the victim, J.J. and D.B. were all inside the house, J.J. began strangling the victim with a piece of coaxial television cable that he found in the house. D.B. directed defendant and J.J. to pull down the victim’s pants. After J.J. did so, J.J. pushed the victim to the ground. D.B. then held the victim down while J.J. engaged in vaginal intercourse and defendant engaged in anal intercourse with the victim. Once this was over, D.B. and J.J. attempted to clean up the victim. When their efforts proved to be unsuccessful, defendant watched as J.J. and D.B. beat the victim about the head with a wooden bed rail that was found in the house. However, the victim did not die, so J.J. again wrapped the coaxial wire around the victim’s neck and strangled her. Defendant then held the door while J.J. and D.B. dragged the victim’s body out of the house by the coaxial cable wrapped around her neck. The victim was covered with a large piece of cloth and left between the fence and an oil drum in the back yard. She later died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. In the days following discovery of the victim’s body, the defendant, as well as J.J. and D.B. were all identified by police as suspects in the victim’s death.
On 17 October 1998, two non-uniformed investigators with the Burlington Police Department went to defendant’s home to see if he would agree to be interviewed. Al-Nesia Jones, D.B. and J.J. were also there. All three suspects were asked, in Al-Nesia’s presence, if they would come to the police department to talk about T.L.’s death. Each was told they were not under arrest, did not have to go to the police department and were under no obligation to give any statements. Each agreed to talk with the officers and thereafter were driven by police to the Burlington Police Department. Defendant was directed into an interview room where he was interviewed separately from D.B. and J.J. by the two investigators who had driven them to the station. Before the interview began, the defendant was again told that he was not under arrest, was free to leave at any time and was under no obligation to speak. Defendant said he understood and agreed to talk to the officers. During the interview, defendant told police that he had not been back to 614 Lakeside Avenue since he moved approximately three weeks earlier. Defendant initially denied knowing the victim, however, he later admitted that he had met her once while living on Morningside Avenue. Defendant denied any involvement in the victim’s death. The interview lasted approximately thirty to thirty-five minutes and defendant was taken home by police at the conclusion of the interview.
On 21 October 1998, police again sought to interview the defendant concerning T.L.’s death. This time, two different non-uniformed investigators went to defendant’s school to see if he would come to the police department for another interview. Before going to the school, the investigators contacted the school resource officer assigned to defendant’s school. This officer went to defendant’s class and escorted defendant to the principal’s office where he met with the investigators.
The investigators introduced themselves to defendant as members of the Burlington Police Department investigating the death of T.L. They told defendant that they wanted to interview him again and asked if he would be willing to come to the police department. The investigators told defendant that he was not under arrest and did not have to speak or go with them if he did not want to. Defendant was further told that if he came to the police department, he could leave at any time and the officers would see that he was driven home. Defendant said he understood and agreed to speak with the officers. Defendant rode in the front passenger seat of the investigators’ car. Defendant was neither searched before he got in the car nor restrained once inside. The conversation on the way consisted mainly of general discussion about school and how long defendant had lived in Burlington. Defendant was not questioned about T.L.’s death on the way to the police department.
After arriving at the Burlington Police Department, the investigators escorted defendant to Lieutenant Jackie Sheffield’s office. The office was of average size, carpeted, wall-papered and had four windows to the outside. The office was furnished comfortably with pictures and plants, as well as three extra office chairs arranged around a living-room type end table. Defendant went in and sat in one of the three chairs. The investigators followed, closing the door behind them and sitting in the remaining two chairs near the end table.
Once the investigators sat down, they produced a written Miranda waiver form and went over it with defendant, each line being read aloud by one of the investigators. Defendant also followed along on the page as the words were read to him. Reading the form verbatim, the investigators reintroduced themselves to defendant, told him the purpose for the interview, and gave defendant each of his Miranda warnings. In addition, defendant was also told that he had the right to have a parent or guardian present with him during questioning and that if he chose to answer questions without a guardian, he had the right to stop anytime he decided he wanted one present. Following the reading of each individual right, the investigators paused and asked defendant if he understood or had any questions. Defendant indicated each time that he understood, both verbally and by initialing or writing “yes” on the page next to the clause that had just been read to him. The investigators then read the waiver portion of the document aloud to defendant and again asked defendant if he understood and wanted to answer their questions. Defendant said he did and so indicated by signing the waiver. Defendant was then asked if he needed anything to drink or a break to use the bathroom. After indicating that he did not, defendant was told that he could stop the interview anytime he needed to take a break. Defendant said he understood and the interview began.
Defendant’s initial interview lasted approximately two hours. During most of this period, defendant denied any involvement in T.L.’s death. At the end of this period, however, defendant admitted that he was at 614 Lakeside Avenue the day T.L. was killed. Following this admission, the investigators took a break and again asked defendant if he needed to go to the bathroom or wanted anything to drink. Defendant declined. The investigators then left defendant alone in the office while they stepped out into the hallway. While the first two investigators were out of the room, a third plain-clothes investigator went into the office alone and asked defendant if he knew what happened to T.L. This time defendant said he did and gave an oral statement detailing his involvement in the victim’s death. The first two investigators then came back into the office and memorialized defendant’s statement in writing. Defendant made corrections on the written statement which he initialed and signed each page of the statement.
Defendant moved to suppress his statements, contending they were made involuntarily because he lacked the mental capacity to knowingly and understandingly waive his Constitutional rights. An evidentiary hearing was conducted on defendant’s motion from 18 September 2000 to 21 September 2000. Defendant’s evidence included testimony from Dr. John Warren, an expert in the field of clinical psychology with specialization in forensic and medical psychology. Dr. Warren testified that defendant suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and was mentally retarded, with full scale I.Q. scores that ranged somewhere between 56 and 65. According to Dr. Warren, I.Q. scores between 100 and 90 were average; scores between 90 and 80 were low average; scores between 80 and 70 were borderline; and below 70 was the mentally retarded range.
Dr. George Baroff, an expert in clinical psychology with specialization in mental retardation, also testified for defendant. Dr. Baroff testified on cross-examination that the scores reflected in Dr. Warren’s report did not coincide with the scores that appeared on the test administered to defendant. Dr. Baroff further testified that the results on the test indicated that defendant’s full scale I.Q. score was 69, with scores of 72 on both the verbal and performance sub-tests. This placed defendant only one point below the threshold for mild mental retardation.
To further rebut defendant’s assertion that he could not competently understand and waive his rights, the State presented the testimony of Art Dunn, a special education teacher at Western Youth Institute. Dunn testified that defendant performed satisfactorily on the reading comprehension assignments given to him while he was at Western Youth Institute. The State also presented testimony concerning two instances where defendant was previously questioned by police in matters unrelated to T.L.’s death. Finally, Deputies Hester Rastle and Jeffrey Svedek testified that while transporting prisoners including the defendant, they overheard defendant assure three other prisoners that jail officials “can’t prove anything,” during a conversation concerning charges pending against defendant and the other prisoners.
The trial court entered an order concluding there was no custodial interrogation and that the statements made by defendant on 21 October 1998 were given freely, voluntarily and knowingly. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress. At trial defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree forcible rape, first-degree statutory sexual offense and two counts of first-degree forcible sexual offense. Defendant appeals.
Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the statements he made to police. Specifically, defendant contends that his confession was the product of custodial interrogation and therefore inadmissible because given his age and mental capacity, he was incapable of voluntarily and intelligently waiving his Constitutional rights. After a careful review of the record and trial transcript, we disagree.
FAYETTEVILLE — For the family of a murdered 10-year-old Alamance County girl, there is justice mixed with grief. A jury Tuesday convicted one of three teenagers charged with the rape and killing of Tiffany Long in 1998.
It took jurors 54 minutes to make their decision in the courtroom. Joseph Jones was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years for the crime.
Despite the guilty verdict, Long’s grandmother says nobody wins.
“I just know we’re all going to be grieving, and we’re all going to be grieving for our children for the rest of our lives,” says Nancy Long, Tiffany’s grandmother. “The Joneses are going to be grieving. Dorthia’s mother is going to be grieving. I mean we lost our children.”
Prosecutors say the quick verdict was important.
“When they came in and announced it was a guilty verdict, that’s a loud and clear message that the evidence was overwhelming,” says Rob Johnson, Alamance County Prosecutor. “We have no doubt that Joseph Jones was involved along with all of them, and like I told the jury in there, three people killed Tiffany.”
Prosecutors say Jones, his uncle, Harold Jones, 17, and Harold’s girlfriend, Dorthia Bynum, 18, abducted, raped and killed Tiffany on Oct. 16, 1998. Her body was discovered behind a vacant house in Burlington where all three teens had once lived.
All the defendants’ cases were moved to Fayetteville because of extensive pre-trial publicity.
After the verdict, Kevin Morse says Joseph Jones read from a prepared statement.
“He apologized to Miss Long for not doing anything to prevent what happened and he expressed his sorrow,” Morse says. “He said he thinks about it every day and he wishes he could take it all back.”
Bynum was sentenced to at least 124 years in prison as part of an agreement with prosecutors in which she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, rape, kidnapping and first-degree sex offense.
Harold Jones faces trial on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and three sex-related counts. A trial date has not been set.
RALEIGH – A second teenager convicted of raping and bludgeoning a 10-year-old Burlington girl in 1998 had his conviction upheld by the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday despite arguments that he was too young and mentally incapable of agreeing to questioning.
Harold Wesley Jones was 16 when he helped his nephew and a 17-year-old girl lure Tiffany Long into an abandoned home, where she was sodomized, clubbed with a bed railing and strangled.
Harold Jones was sentenced to life in prison. Joseph Jones, who was 13 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison and Dorthia Bynum was sentenced to 124 years.
Harold Jones’ attorneys argued at his 2000 trial – moved to Cumberland County because of extensive pretrial publicity – that his statements should not be admitted as evidence because he lacked the mental capacity to knowingly waive his constitutional rights not to incriminate himself.
The trial judge ruled that Mr. Jones’s statements were made freely, voluntarily and knowingly. The three-judge appeals court panel agreed.
“Nothing on the record before us indicates that the defendant waived his rights as a result of mistreatment or coercion at the hands of the police. Accordingly, we hold that the defendant was capable of effectively waiving his constitutional rights and did so,” Chief Judge Sidney Eagles Jr. wrote in the court’s ruling.
The court issued a similar ruling in December in Joseph Jones’ appeal.
In that case, the appeals court ruled that an aunt who accompanied Joseph Jones during a police interview met the legal requirement that a parent or guardian be present when a child under 14 is interrogated.
In Harold Jones’ case, Chief Judge Eagles and Judges John Martin and Robert Hunter ruled that trial judges must consider age when deciding whether a jury should be told about a defendant’s confession.
But “the fact that the defendant is youthful will not preclude the admission of his inculpatory statement absent mistreatment or coercion by the police officers,” Chief Judge Eagles wrote.
Doctors testifying for Harold Jones’ defense testified at his trial that he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and was mentally retarded. One doctor testified Mr. Jones’ I.Q. scores ranged between 56 and 65. Scores between 90 and 100 are average. Another doctor testified Mr. Jones’ I.Q. was only one point below the threshold for mild mental retardation.
A special education teacher testified that Mr. Jones performed satisfactorily on reading comprehension assignments.