LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - During the third day of the jury trial for Stanford Jones, an Angelina County jury deliberated for less than two hours before they found him count of three felony arson charges in connection to a series of fires that occurred in North Lufkin in November 2012. The jury issued a not-guilty verdict on two of the charges.
Judge Bob Inselmann will determine Jones' sentence at a later date following a pre-sentencing investigation..
The 34-year-old was originally accused of setting six fires in the North Lufkin area in November 2012. Jones was indicted in Dec. 2013. However, one of the six charges was thrown out before the jury read the verdict on the charges.
The state called LaTonya Siggers, to the stand first.
Siggers said that that she remembered seeing Jones around 4 a.m. one day.
“I saw him, and he said he needed to go to O'Quinn Street,” Siggers said. “It was like five or 10 minutes.”
Siggers said later that morning she remembered hearing firetrucks and Jones asked her to check.
“I came back and said there was a house on fire, and we went our separate ways at that time,” SIggers said. “He went to his mom's house.”
Siggers told Defense Attorney John Tunnell that she was riding a bicycle when she went to check on the fire.
“When I went up to the fire, the police were already there,” Siggers said. “They knew me and approached me thinking maybe I started the fire, but I didn't.”
Siggers said the bike she was on was the one that Jones used and that it belonged to Jones' mother, Debra Jones Runnels.
Evelyn Hamilton, a former girlfriend of Jones, then answered questions from prosecuting attorney John Peralta.
Hamilton said she was at Owens Bar when Jones met her there.
“I had a drink,” Hamilton said. “Then he bought me a drink and him a drink.”
Hamilton said after a few drinks, Jones started acting out.
“He wasn't himself,” Hamilton said. “He started yelling at a lady, and I said, ‘Come on let's leave.'”
Hamilton said she left and later got a call that she needed to go to the bar and get him.
“I found him in an abandoned house,” Hamilton said. “He stripped out of his clothes. He was only in his boxers. He never does that, not even at home.”
Hamilton said that she would take him to the hospital with his brother and mom.
“I went there and they said someone drugged his drink and he had an overdose,” Hamilton said. “I went home and came back the next day.”
Hamilton then said she did not see him make a post to Facebook while he was in the hospital, but she saw one later. Later, she looked through a packet of papers and confirmed that the posts were made from Jones' Facebook page.
Lufkin Fire Marshal Steve McCool took the stand. McCool said he was the main investigator on the case.
McCool told Peralta that he did meet Jones during the investigation, but at the time he was not a suspect.
McCool said it is not an accident that six fires happened in 48 hours.
“I have never heard of it before,” McCool said. “When he was arrested the fires stopped. It was months before we had another fire in the neighborhood.”
McCool said right now there is an undermined fire case in the area, but that happened months after Jones was arrested.
McCool would then talk to Peralta about evidence at the scenes of the fires. McCool said there were several items that scanned for prints but nothing came back on them.
McCool then told jurors that in regard to SIggers, he did ask her about where she was when the fires started and she denied being at any of them.
“I was able to rule her out of four of the fires, but not the ones at Cottonbelt or the club,” McCool said. “I think she may have had some involvement but we didn't have anything to prove it.”
Peralta asked McCool about the Facebook page and the email linked to it. McCool said an email by ‘jboyheartofthenorth' was linked to the page. McCool said he contacted the Internet provider and linked the email to Jones. McCool said they were also able to link Jones' birthday to the account.
McCool would then read to the jurors the post from Jones on Facebook.
The first post was on a reply to picture Jones posted on Nov. 11, 2012. It stated, “ No tell your brother I'm ready to put a match to lufkin tx and watch this [explitive] burn down su wuu biz.”
Another posts read, “Enjoy a peaceful night get plenty of sleep because after tonight some of you will see heaven the rest of you go burn ya go burn slow.”
And the third post McCool read stated, “Im alive and all you [explitive] who want me dead you go die before me one by one lord forgive me for my sins.?"
McCool told Tunnell that a cigarette lighter from the O'Quinn fire was never sent off for DNA analysis. McCool also said they did not fingerprint the lighter fluid can, because they did not want to compromise the DNA analysis. McCool also told Tunnell that a gas cap from a can was not sent because he did not think it would catch enough of a profile to obtain evidence.
Tunnell asked McCool about his meeting with Jones during the investigation. McCool told Tunnell he met with Jones on Nov. 14, 2012, at Jones' house. McCool said he met with him at 10:32 a.m. and that there were several more fires after meeting with him.
McCool told Tunnell that he has never measured the distance between the fifth fire at the club and the sixth fire on Cottonbelt.
McCool was then asked again about Sigger. McCool told Tunnell that he talked to her to see where she was at the time.
“I talked to people,” McCool said.
McCool said he never took a DNA analysis from Sigger.
“The DNA came back as male,” McCool said. “Her DNA was not sent for comparison.”
Peralta started his closing arguments by stating he divided the trial up into three days.
“The first day I showed you the fires,” Peralta said. “Day two I covered the DNA and linked it to him. Today we showed you his Facebook page with the threats.”
Peralta next said that he is confident that Jones is an arsonist.
“You hear Ms. Siggers say she was with him early in the morning that first fire,” Peralta said. “You heard her say he went to O'Quinn St, and then what happens; there's a fire on O'Quinn. Then he ask her to go down and see what is happening.”
Peralta said all that has to happen is that the fire started and that it did not matter how much it burned.
“Each one of these was common,” Peralta said. We have the same motive. These fires are happening at four in the morning, 5 in the morning and 6 in the morning.”
Peralta said by the time Jones got to the hospital, he was able to post pictures and make threatening comments.
“He went where he thought he was wronged,” Peralta said. “He gets arrested shortly after the last fire and the fires stop. McCool told you that they went months before any other fires happened.”
Peralta then went on to talk about the first fire at a home where a man was inside.
“He tried to set fire to the home at two spots with a person inside,” Peralta said. “Think about what he is trying to do.”
Tunnell defended Jones by saying that the defendant should not have to prove his innocence.
“I've never seen that more evident than in this case,” Tunnell said.
Tunnell then attacked the Facebook posts.
“We live in a society that social media was not what it was when I was young,” Tunnell said. “That doesn't make Jones guilty. That is a starting point. That is an ending point. That is really all we have in this case.”
Tunnell said the only thing tested was a spit swab the investigators took and a cloth.
“Out of everything to test that is it,” Tunnell said. “And you are supposed to go off of the Facebook post?”
Tunnell argued there is hardly anything that links Jones to the area.
“There is not any DNA [for several fires] that links Jones to the fires,” Tunnell said.
Tunnell argued even though Siggers said Jones was in the area of the O'Quinn fire, that doesn't put the fire on him.
Tunnell also argued that it does not make any sense that Jones would set three more fires after McCool came over and spoke to Jones about the others.
Tunnell also touched on the bar story.
“Someone spiked his drink,” Tunnell said. “He was walking around in his boxers. Someone was out to get him. Someone was out to hurt him.”
Tunnell argued that someone could have set the fires wanting to hurt Jones.
Jones' attorney told the jury they cannot convict Jones because there are too many unknowns.
After Tunnell spoke, Peralta had a chance at a rebuttal.
"Thank God no one was hurt,"Peralta said. "All of the men, women and children that live on the north side have the right to live in peace."
Peralta spoke of witnesses that were impeached at the beginning because their statements now did not match what they told investigators.
"The state believes we have presented more than enough to find him guilty," Peralta said. "When he decided to take his anger out on his own neighbors, he burned the bridge of freedom. Someone needs to stand up and hold him accountable for his actions."?