By Jason A. Smith
A Stockbridge man will spend the next 10 years in prison for assaulting his wife, despite a third mistrial on murder charges related to her strangulation death.
Changa Ola Jones, Sr., 38, was convicted Friday of aggravated assault. He had been charged with murder, felony murder and aggravated assault in the 2005 slaying of his wife, Natasha Monique Brown Jones, who was found strangled to death in the bedroom of her Carlsbad Cove home in Stockbridge.
Henry County Superior Court Judge Brian Amero sentenced Changa Jones to serve 10 years in prison, followed by five years on probation.
Natasha Jones' sister, Rolanda Brown, was one of the victim's family members who was in the courtroom as the verdict was read. She said the guilty verdict on the aggravated assault charge "just wasn't enough. Justice was not served, definitely not," said Brown.
The six men and six women on the jury were unable to reach a verdict on charges of malice murder and felony murder. Jurors began deliberating the case Wednesday on the three charges against the defendant, and reached a unanimous verdict on only one of the counts alleged by the state.
Jone's two previous trials in connection with his wife's slaying -- in March of 2008, and May of 2009 -- also ended in mistrials on the murder charges.
Henry County District Attorney Tommy Floyd said the circumstantial nature of the evidence in the case has hampered the prosecution's ability to secure a murder conviction against Jones. No eyewitnesses to the crime came forward, during the investigation of the death or during the subsequent trials.
"Domestic homicides often lack evidence that conclusively shows what happened, or who committed the homicide," said Floyd. "That makes it difficult for a jury to reach a verdict. The evidence was not as strong as we would have liked."
Floyd plans to decide next week whether to retry Changa Jones on murder charges. "I wouldn't want to make an announcement, without talking to the family of the victim first," he said.
Changa Jones was found guilty of aggravated assault on Friday, in a Sept. 1, 2005 incident, in which he was alleged to have thrown a cement block through the windshield of his wife's car. His defense attorney, Michelle Clark, said she disagrees with the jury's verdict on the assault charge, but respects the decision.
"We certainly would have preferred 'not guilty' on all three counts, because in my opinion, my client's not guilty," she said.
Clark added that the state had "insufficient evidence" to prove Changa Jones' guilt on the murder charges. Proving the defendant killed his wife, according to her, will "always be a difficult case for the state. Certainly, it's an emotional case," she said. "But the fact of the matter is, that this case will probably always end up in a hung jury."
She said her client will likely appeal the verdict on the aggravated assault charge.
Changa Jones, in Rolanda Brown's opinion, failed to show his concern for his wife's family, both after her death, and in court.
"In the whole trial, he never apologized even about finding out that she was dead," said Brown. "Even if you didn't do it, and you're declaring yourself innocent, you still could have said, 'I'm sorry to hear that you lost your sister.' He never even said that."
Brown continued that Changa Jones did not express sympathy toward his, and the victim's son, following the loss of Natasha Jones.
The victim's mother, Shirley Felix, was also visibly saddened by the outcome of the trial. However, she said she remains burdened for Changa Jones on a spiritual level.
"I just pray he finds it in his heart to confess to God, and that He'll forgive him for it," said Felix. "I will always love him. That's my grandchild's father."