Club owner testifies in North Lufkin arson trial

Club owner testifies in North Lufkin arson trial
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Stanford Jones (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Stanford Jones (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Day 2 of the Stanford Jones trial continued with testimony from state witnesses.

Jones is accused of being the "North Lufkin Arsonist" from 2012. The 34-year-old is accused of setting six fires in the North Lufkin area in November 2012. Jones faces six charges of arson and was indicted in Dec. 2013.

Laura Owens started the day of testimony.

Owens said she lives upstairs above the Owens night club.

Owens told prosecuting attorney John Peralta that the fire happened in November of 2012 between 4 and 5 in the morning.

“I smelled something burning, and thought one of my brothers set the trash on fire,” Owens said. “I looked outside and saw the door on fire.”

Owens said she started screaming for her family and then called the fire department.

Next would be Lanzy Owens, the owner of Owens night club.

Owens said the fire happened just before day break.

“My sister was screaming,” Owens said. “I came outside and the door was flamed up. I didn't know if it was the whole building but the door was all on fire. When I came out there the flames were going all the way to the roof”

Owens said he used a water hose to put out the fire. Owens said when he opened the door, a heavy amount of smoke came out from the building.

Owens said it also looked like someone tried to set the front door of the building on fire.

“It looked like someone tried to stuff some carpet at the door to light on fire,” Owens said.

Owens said he does not know who would have done this because he did not see anybody.

Lufkin Police officer Brandon White would then answer questions.

White told the prosecuting attorney that on Nov. 15, 2012, White said he was on his way to back up an officer at a traffic stop.

“I was on my way down Cottonbelt,” White said. “I saw a house with smoke coming from it.”

White said he stopped at the home and found a piece of wood that was on fire and placed in a back room.

“The fire had just started,” White said. “It didn't do a lot of damage to the home.”

White told defense attorney John Tunnel that he did not take pictures of evidence or collect evidence. White said that was left up to the crime scene team. White said he did not know if the board was taken into evidence.

Officer Jeremy Charvoz would recall his role from the fires.

Charvoz told Peralta that on Nov. 13 he responded to 906 O'Quinn.

“I was asked to process evidence,” Charvoz said. “I was asked to process a car. Fire Marshal Steve McCool I think was investigating an arson.

Charvoz said he found a black rag inside the gas can of a vehicle.

Charvoz told Tunnel that photographs were taken as well as a gas cap and cigarette lighter.

“I'm not sure if [the lighter] was sent for testing,” Charvoz said. “I was switched to patrol division around that time.”

Jones is currently in prison, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records. He was arrested on Nov. 15, 2012 on a revocation of probation warrant and is serving time for that warrant.

Detective Stephen Abbott then recalled his investigation at Owens Night Club.

“When I got to the front door, I noticed some footprints,” Abbott said.

Abbott told Peralta that he remember two fires being set that night.

Abbott said he and a few officers walked a trail between Owens and the O'Quinn fire and noticed something out of the ordinary.

“We were walking the tracks, and the frost was still on the ground,” Abbott said. “We noticed an area of flame. It looked fresh like it had just happened.”

Abbott said a sample was taken and sent to the DPS crime lab.

Abbott told Tunnel that the walking distance was between a half mile and a full mile.

Christy Pate told Peralta that she did not collect evidence but did send evidence off. Pate said she sent two swab samples from Jones and a black cloth to get tested.

Pate told Tunnel that she was not the custodian of all the evidence pieces taken and that she was just responsible for just those three items.

Pate pointed to other officers as the custodians of other records.

Christy Estevez then talked about her role in collecting evidence.

Brenda Jones Runnels, the mother of Stanford Jones, told Peralta about a time in 2012 when Jones went to a hospital.

Runnels said she saw her son walking down Keltys acting weird.

“My child would not act like that,” Runnels said. “He was not acting like one of my children. I asked the other people what was wrong with him.”

Runnels said she had no choice to take him to the hospital.

“He hit a wall,” Runnels said. “He broke his fingers. The way his character was, I was like, ‘This is not my child.'”

Runnels said she got the call at 12 and was at the hospital by 1 a.m.

“I knew something was wrong,” Runnels said. “I told my kids not to call after 11, because my brother was shot at that time and it scares me when they call that late. You know me, I'm a mother, so I went down the street to see what was wrong.”

Runnels said Jones could not stand and had to have a wheelchair at the hospital.

“I said I did not know what had happened,” Runnels said. “This is not my son, something had happened.”

Runnels then talked about a picture that Jones put on his Facebook page. Runnels said she found out about the post at a later time. Runnels said she did not see him post anything, but she did see him on the phone.

Runnels told Tunnel that she has three Facebook pages and that she has had someone get into her page and deleted personal photos.

Runnels said she had a password to get into his page and post stuff.

Jena Dunton, a forensic scientist with the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab in Houston started the afternoon testimony and talked about DNA comparison.

"[The lab got] a black cloth from the opening of a jeep gas tank, a swab sample from cotton belt street and a buckle swab from Stanford Jones," Dunton said.

Dunton said after looking at the DNA profile of the swab, the lab determined that Stanford Jones matched the DNA. Dunton listed the odds of it being someone else as one in 1.80 quintillion in regards to white people, one in 408 quadrillion in regards to black people, and one in 1.08 quintillion in regards to Hispanics.

Dunton said Jones could not also be excluded from the profile of the cloth sample.

"There was an unknown part of the profile that could be contributed to the item, but Jones cannot be excluded," Dunton said.

Dunton told Peralta that if there was an accelerant on the item, that it would not change the DNA on the item.

Later in her testimony, Dunton told Tunnel that there was no way to tell how long the DNA was on the item and that there are variables to put it there, but it did not take a lot of contact to make the DNA go onto the item. Dunton told Tunnel that the DNA could have been there for a while and that it did not have to been put on it the day of the fire.

Dunton said she was not asked to compare the DNA of Stanford Jones to other people's DNA, but she could have if she was asked.?


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