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Before son's murder, man afoul of law for years

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The 26-year-old held his infant son in his arms as the paramedics arrived. The 4-month-old baby was limp, dead, and Jeremy Antonio Stokes said, "There's something wrong with the baby."

Stokes, of Jonesboro, was arrested on March 5 on charges of malice murder and cruelty to children. The charges mark the most recent entry in what court documents show is a long record of alcohol-related crimes and escalating family violence.

Since turning 17, when he could be charged as an adult, Stokes has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, furnishing alcohol to minors, public drunkenness, escape, criminal trespass, family battery, obstructing 911 calls and making terroristic threats, before the most recent arrest.

Clayton County State Court records show Stokes was first arrested nine years ago, on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was 17. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

In 2001, at the age of 19, Stokes pled guilty to hitting his pregnant, live-in girlfriend.

Keeshan Lynette Justice, five month's pregnant with Stokes' child, had lumps on her forehead and swelling around her eyes after he hit her head, face and stomach repeatedly, according to documents filed by prosecutors.

Stokes was sentenced to 60 hours of community service. His sentence included the order: "The defendant shall consume no alcoholic beverages of any kind or character, nor in any quantity whatsoever."

In February 2003, Stokes was kicked out of a Tara Boulevard nightclub, and had a confrontation with the Clayton County Police in the parking lot. Reportedly screaming obscenities, he was arrested and handcuffed, and then took off running. He ran for about a quarter of a mile before they caught him, arrested him again, and charged him with escape.

He pled guilty and was sentenced to 12 months probation, 10 weekends in jail, and 240 hours of community service.

In 2004, a week before Valentine's Day, Stokes was arrested again on charges of battering Keeshan Justice, and taking the phone away from her when she tried to call for help. He accepted a plea deal that dismissed the second charge and sentenced him to 12 more months of probation and 24 hours of community service.

In 2006, while in the county jail on alcohol-related charges, Stokes, 25 at the time, reportedly said he would murder a corrections officer. He was charged with making a terroristic threat against a law enforcement officer, a crime carrying the possible sentence of five years in prison.

It was the first time he was charged with a felony.

The charge was dropped when the alleged victim's military reserve unit was called to serve overseas, and prosecutors were left without a victim or a witness.

Now, after nine years in the adult criminal justice system, nine years of run-ins with officers, appointments with lawyers and appearances before judges, Stokes faces a life sentence.

On March 2, the 26-year-old stayed out drinking at a Tara Boulevard nightclub until 4 a.m., and then he called his mother for a ride home, according to police reports. A different live-in girlfriend, 20-year-old Tamara L. Riley, was mad about that, she told police, but she left for work at 10:30 a.m., and left Stokes asleep on the couch, in charge of their 4-month-old son.

That day, a Sunday, the baby boy died of asphyxiation.

The autopsy found the infant had multiple broken ribs, a swollen brain, a broken elbow, bruising to the neck and jaw and a bite mark on his back.

Riley told police her boyfriend is "jealous."

Police say Stokes was "malicious," and caused the child "cruel and excessive" pain. Stokes denies the charges.

Stokes denied the allegation he murdered his son, when questioned by police. He said it was an accident that happened while he slept.

His next court date, a probable cause hearing, is set for April 1.