Terrence G. Jones was found not guilty on all 23 counts in a murder case stemming from a 2010 armed robbery that ended in a fatal shooting in a Hinesville apartment.
The jury came to that conclusion around 5 p.m. Thursday after nearly four hours of deliberation.
Jones faced two counts of murder, nine counts of aggravated assault, nine counts of armed robbery, one count of burglary, one count of possession of a firearm or knife during commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
On Oct. 29, 2010, during an apparent poker game at an apartment in the 600 block of South Main Street, two men wearing masks reportedly burst inside. According to testimony presented by Atlantic Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Melissa Poole, the two men demanded money and personal possessions and fired several shots at the people inside the home. Poole said one of the men then walked up to Orlejandro Mark Smalls and shot him twice in the back of the head.
On Tuesday, two witnesses who were at the poker game at the time of the murder, were served subpoenas but refused to take the stand. Daryl Mackenzie, known to his friends as “Boone,” and Anthony Evans, known as “Capone,” were both arrested and spent the night in jail for contempt of court. On Wednesday morning, the two men did take the witness stand but said they couldn’t recall many of the details surrounding the night in question.
Jones’ former girlfriend testified Wednesday that Jones told her he killed Smalls after she, Jones and a third man, Antwan Lewis, headed out to the poker party in what was planned to be a robbery. She said she sat in the car and waited. When Jones and Lewis returned, she testified, Jones said he killed Smalls.
The ex-girlfriend said she did not tell police about this until she feared for her life after a domestic dispute with Jones in October 2013, when he threatened to kill her and her two children.
She said she knew it was time to come forward and reveal her secret, at which point she took detectives to the location where she had driven the men the night they decided to toss the cellphones and car keys they had stolen. The woman said Jones also tossed out the pistol he used and the two men burned the clothes they wore.
The woman contacted an attorney and agreed to testify if she had immunity from prosecution in Smalls’ death.
From the start of the trial, Liberty County Public Defender Joshua Brockington called Jones’ ex “a woman scorned,” something the defense attorney repeated during his closing arguments. He painted a picture of a woman who vowed vengeance to the point of fabricating the story she presented during her testimony.
Brockington also said that the state had failed to meet its burden to prove Jones guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the end, the jury agreed.
Jones sat back and waited for the verdict to be read. One by one each count was returned with a not-guilty verdict. Halfway through, Jones placed his hands over his face and bowed his head down, appearing to give thanks. Later, he stood next to Brockington, smiled and shook his hand.
But Jones’ legal trouble is not finished.
Jones and another co-defendant, Roy Smith, are set to stand trial, tentatively set for Oct. 26. This stems from a Liberty County cold case file of a shooting that occurred on Feb. 9, 1996, in which Rolando McIntosh and Jeneral Morgan were killed and Richard Hillery was injured.
Jones and Smith are both charged with two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The Coastal Courier reported that then-Liberty County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Keith Moran said a fight that started in Long County spilled into Walthourville with a high-speed chase between two vehicles that ended on Wilder Road.
Moran said witnesses heard numerous gunshots from what might have been a semiautomatic weapon. He said the two vehicles were speeding through the area until one car lost control and struck a home on Wilder Road. Investigators found two men, later identified as Morgan and McIntosh, shot to death. Hillery was treated at Liberty Regional Medical Center.
In November 2013, Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes and Hinesville Police Chief George Stagmeier formed a joint task force to investigate the July 1, 2012 death of Ernie Walthour.
New evidence was brought forward that allowed the grand jury to move forward with the indictment of Jones and Smith for the 1996 double-homicide case.