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Defendant in murder trial testifies

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today at 9 a.m., for a Stockbridge man on trial for murder in the killing of his wife, Natasha Monique Brown Jones, a 31-year-old Creekside High School teacher.

Changa Ola Jones, Sr., 38, took the stand in his own defense Tuesday, in Henry County Superior Court, declaring, "I did not kill my wife."

During his third trial in connection with his wife's death, Jones said he neither assaulted, nor murdered his wife. His two previous trials -- in 2008, and last year -- resulted in mistrials.

Jones told the jury that he was in Florida at the time of his wife's death. In earlier testimony, his 12-year-old son had said his mother was "sad and crying" the night before her body was found in her Carlsbad Cove home on Oct. 2, 2005.

The youngster said he heard his mother arguing with a man he believed was his father. Jones said his son, who was 8 at the time, was mistaken. Jones has maintained he was in Florida working.

Jones is charged with murder, felony murder and aggravated assault. As he testified for more than an hour, he said he maintained regular contact with his wife in the months before her death, while he worked at a shipyard in Jacksonville, Fla. He also said he spent some time in Texas.

"Me and Natasha talked on the phone all the time," he said, suggesting that he maintained a close relationship with his spouse. He said he and his wife co-owned an instant tax return store, which he managed.

He told jurors that his wife had indicated she wanted to drop the warrant she had filed against him earlier for aggravated assault, after a cement block was smashed into the window of her car.

Jones' defense attorney, Michelle Clark -- through her questions -- addressed the assault allegation made by his late wife, which is the basis for the aggravated assault charge against her client.

Henry County Police charged Jones, in September 2005, with throwing a cement block through the windshield of his wife's vehicle outside her home. Jones adamantly denied the accusation during his testimony. "I did not hit my wife, or pitch a brick," he said. "I didn't slap my wife ... I asked her where she was going, that's all."

He said he was aware the police department took out a warrant for his arrest following the incident, and added that Natasha Jones tried unsuccessfully to get the warrant dropped.

Jones said he was on a cruise during the weekend of his wife's death, and was "distraught" when he heard the news. He said matters were made worse in the days following the death, by the victim's sister, Nicole Watson. "I heard Nicole and her family were saying I killed my wife."

Henry County Assistant District Attorney Sandi Rivers cross-examined Jones, asking how he knew his wife had died, and why he did not inquire about the condition and care of his son.

Jones said he relied on news accounts in Florida, and later in Texas. Pressed by Rivers, whether local news coverage in Florida and Texas would cover an Atlanta murder case, Jones said, "I saw it on the Internet."

Jones maintained that he "wasn't on the run" in the days following his wife's death, but admitted he did not speak directly to Natasha Jones' family in the initial days of the murder investigation.

"The family was saying that I did it," he said. "The news was saying that I was a person of interest and everything. I was hoping that the police department would do their job, because I had a warrant for aggravated assault on me. Even if I would have came, I would have been in the Henry County Jail for that bogus warrant."

Prior to Jones' testimony, defense witnesses from the Henry County Police Department also took the stand on Tuesday. Three detectives and a crime scene technician told the court that no direct physical evidence was obtained that linked Jones to his wife's murder.

The defense rested its case following Jones' testimony.