The Life and Crimes of Bam Jones

Henry Lee Jones is accused of two murders. That's only the beginning.

On September 2, 1982, a jury found the 18-year-old guilty on all three charges. Judge Joseph E. Price sentenced him to 30 years in prison, plus an additional five years for attempting to flee.

Once incarcerated, prison officials cited Jones 11 times for fighting or assault, twice for weapons possession, and numerous times for insubordination and disorderly conduct. In fact, on January 23, 1991, Jones incited a riot at Liberty Correctional Institute in Bristol, in North Florida. In all, Jones had 36 citations on his prison record. As punishment, his sentence was lengthened by about two years and nine months.

He was still able to benefit from Florida's overcrowded penal system. At the time, anyone incarcerated in the state automatically received at least a one-third reduction in sentence, no matter how violent or numerous the crimes. On July 1, 1997, after serving less than 15 years, the 34-year-old Jones walked out of Tomoka Correctional Institute in Daytona Beach a free man.

Carlos Perez (left) was found wrapped in a bloodied comforter in Melbourne, Florida. Clarence and Lillian James' murders were the first in Bartlett, Tennessee, in five years.
Carlos Perez (left) was found wrapped in a bloodied comforter in Melbourne, Florida. Clarence and Lillian James' murders were the first in Bartlett, Tennessee, in five years.

From his prison release to mid-2001, Jones was in and out of jail. In June 1999, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office picked him up for stalking. He served 15 days in jail, plus 12 months of probation, for the offense. One year later, on May 31, 2000, Flagler County Sheriff's Deputy James E. Burroughs found Jones in a car parked on State Road 100 in Palm Coast. Burroughs believed he had foiled Jones' plans to break into vending machines, according to the police report. The officer discovered marijuana in an Altoids tin. Although authorities charged Jones with loitering and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, the Flagler County State Attorney's Office inexplicably dropped the charges. Jones spent two days in jail.

On August 29 of that same year, Jones was back in Jacksonville, where sheriff's deputies arrested him for battery. Those charges were dropped as well. Jones didn't receive any jail time. Seven months later, on March 21, 2001, Jones violated a restraining order and was put away for 72 days. (Police couldn't provide details of the cases.)

So, by the summer of 2001, law enforcement had Jones in custody at least four times since his 1997 prison release, yet none of the charges resulted in serious punishment.

By October 10, 2001, Jones had returned to Fort Lauderdale. That evening, he offered law enforcement a solid opportunity to put him back in prison when he cruised around town in a gray 1988 Ford Fiesta that had been reported stolen from a Daytona Beach used-car dealership on September 1. With him in the passenger seat was a girlfriend named Brandy Collins.

At 6:25 p.m., Fort Lauderdale police Sgt. Bill Johnson spotted the stolen car on Broward Boulevard. Johnson observed Jones beating Collins as the Fiesta approached the Interstate 95 entrance ramp. The officer stopped the vehicle. As the car came to a halt, Jones fled. Collins had bruises and a laceration on her face, Johnson observed.

Fort Lauderdale police later found Jones hiding in a car parked outside 180 NW 20th Ave. He submitted without a fight. Authorities initially wanted to come down hard on Jones, charging him with battery, resisting a police officer, burglary, and grand theft.

But Assistant Broward State Attorney Peter F. Laporte declined to press the grand theft charge, a felony, pursuing only misdemeanor battery and resisting arrest. The problem, explains Ed Walsh, the assistant state attorney who supervised the case, was that state prosecutors would have had difficulty proving that Jones knew the car was stolen. A witness to the car theft in Daytona Beach could not describe the culprit beyond saying he was a black male. What's more, a defense attorney could have argued that Jones was fleeing because of the battery, not because he was knowingly driving a stolen car. "That's a constant problem with grand theft," Walsh explains.

Jones pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanors and received 126 days in jail. The sentence was lenient. For the battery charge, he could have received up to one year. That was the fifth time police had Jones in custody following his release from prison.

The sixth collar would come eight months later. On May 14, 2002, a woman who identified herself to police as one of Jones' friends filed a complaint with Fort Lauderdale police, alleging that Jones had drugged and raped her mentally handicapped teenaged son. (Because the alleged victim is a minor, police will identify neither mother nor son.)

That day, according to the victim's statement to police, the teenager "ran into" Jones near Mount Olive Apartments about 4:30 p.m. "They both started drinking together and rode bicycles and walked around," according to the police report. Jones offered the boy a Percodan, which is a narcotic generally used as a pain reliever, and the two of them each swallowed one dose.

Jones then recommended they "chill" at his girlfriend's home at Lakeview Garden Apartments at 2224 NW Second St. in Fort Lauderdale, the statement continues. The two-story apartment was abandoned, the electricity turned off. The deadbolt on the front door was removed. Empty beer cans littered the staircase. Bugs scurried on the floor.

The two drank some more. Jones offered the boy another pill. He accepted. "The Percodan and alcohol hit [the victim] hard and he was almost completely incapacitated by it," according to the police report.

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