A Barberton teen convicted of raping and murdering his 3-year-old half sister will be released from custody in less than four years if his behavior is spotless while in a state facility for youth offenders.
D’Marques “DJ” Jones, 17, will be held at an Ohio Department of Youth Services facility, with orders to undergo rehabilitation, counseling and schooling toward a degree, until he turns 21.
If Jones commits any violent act there, however, such as an assault or vandalism of state property, he could face the additional sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility only after serving 25 years, Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio ruled Thursday in handing down the so-called blended sentence.
Jones could be subject to the latter, adult sentence under the state’s serious youth offender laws. Under that potential penalty, the court first would conduct a hearing to determine if the teen was, in fact, guilty of any act of violence while in youth custody.
Summit County prosecutors and Jones’ attorney both went on the record in court Thursday and agreed that, under an Ohio Supreme Court ruling in which the sentences applying to Jones must be merged, Teodosio had no option other than to impose what she ordered.
On Dec. 13, a Summit County Juvenile Court jury convicted Jones of raping and murdering Makayla Jones following a weeklong trial and a little more than two hours of deliberations. He was 15 at the time of his half sister’s death.
Teodosio, who previously had found Jones to be amenable to rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system, said Jones must maintain the good behavior he has shown at the county’s Dan Street facility since spending the past 13 months in custody there.
Speaking directly to the teen from the bench, Teodosio said she has not received any reports of infractions by Jones or write-ups from his corrections officers. She emphasized that he must maintain “stellar behavior” when he goes to a DYS facility.
“You are going to have to stay out of trouble there. I don’t think it’s any secret to anyone that there is an issue with gang activity at [youth facilities]. You cannot engage in that,” Teodosio told Jones.
“There are fights that go on. You need to step away. You need to step away from people who are fighting,” the judge said, adding that the adult sentence could be invoked if Jones were to be involved in such acts.
Jones spoke only briefly, asking one question of the judge.
“If somebody assaults me, am I allowed to defend myself?” he asked.
Teodosio told Jones he would need to go over the rules for such a confrontation with a DYS official, but also stressed that if he had an opening to retreat from a fight, “you would have an obligation to do so.”
In June 2011, Makayla was pronounced dead three days after emergency surgery at Akron Children’s Hospital. The cause of death, according to trial testimony, was severe inflammation and infection of the abdomen from a ruptured colon.
Makayla Jones, DJ Jones, his mother, his father and four other siblings had been at a Barberton apartment for Father’s Day weekend. All six children had played for hours with water guns on that Saturday, according to testimony.
Forensic evidence presented by prosecutors on the second day of Jones’ trial last month linked him to the rape allegations. A DNA scientist from the state crime lab testified that tests of cuttings from the child’s underwear contained genetic profiles consistent with the teen and the girl.
Attorney Scott Rilley, who defended Jones after months of proceedings in a successful attempt to keep the case in the juvenile system, said outside of court Thursday that Jones has consistently maintained “that he had no involvement in this.”
Rilley declined to elaborate, but did point out Jones was never in any previous trouble.
“He has been here at Dan Street since October 2011 with absolutely no problems, so all that shows that keeping him in the juvenile system obviously was the right decision,” Rilley said.
As part of sentencing, Teodosio said an attorney would be appointed to handle the teen’s case on appeal. A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the court filing of the sentencing order.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.