Jury acquits suspect in murder trial
An Allen County jury found Marquavious Jones not guilty in the shooting death of a fellow partygoer in late 2016.
Jones, 29, and Sha Rif left the party together in Rif’s white Subaru. Police said the 22-year-old was shot inside the vehicle and was later found dead in the parking lot of a south-side gas station, where he had crawled to the locked entrance of the business around 2 a.m. Nov. 30, 2016.
Prosecutors charged Jones with murder and a firearms enhancement last year, and a three-day trial ended tonight with his acquittal on both charges after about three hours of jury deliberation. Jones faced up to 75 years in prison if he was convicted.
“I love my son, and he’s innocent,” said an emotional Madeline Jones, who sat through the entire trial.
Wearing a white shirt, dark tie and black pants, Jones waved to his mother before leaving the courtroom. Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck said Jones likely will be released today from jail, where he’s spent more than a year.
“I love y’all,” Jones said as he was led out of the courtroom.
Rif’s family quietly left the courtroom.
Allen County Deputy Prosecutors Tom Chaille and Tesa Helge and police tied Jones to the crime through .380-caliber shell casings found on the passenger seat of the car. A witness at the party said Jones had a gun loaded with that type of ammunition, a probable cause affidavit alleged.
Two witnesses told police Jones was jealous over Rif’s friendship with them.
Other witnesses : including a former Allen County Jail inmate who was housed in the same cell block with Jones and testified in court Tuesday : said Jones bragged about the crime.
Jayson Lane, the former inmate, said Jones confessed to killing Rif.
Defense attorneys Ryan Gardner and Nick Wallace questioned Lane’s credibility, suggesting in closing arguments he was trying to soften a potentially harsh federal prison sentence by working with prosecutors. Gardner also cast doubt on a witness who told police after the shooting and said later in a deposition Rif was driving the car with Jones in the passenger seat : the spot from where the fatal shots were fired, according to investigators.
The woman said Tuesday she couldn’t remember where Jones was sitting and that he might have been in the back seat.
Jones testified Wednesday he was in the back seat and said another man in the car might have shot Rif. He said he did not see Rif get shot.
“He heard the shots and he ran,” Gardner said in closing arguments. “That’s what you do. You don’t look back. It’s human nature, self-preservation.
“There’s not enough evidence (to convict).”
Gardner said after the verdict was read around 6 p.m. Wednesday the case turned on the woman’s changing testimony and Jones’s willingness to take the stand.
“It was a hard-fought case,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier with the result. We still hope the victim’s family gets justice.”
Witnesses for the prosecution included an Indiana State Police firearms examiner, who testified the bullets that killed Rif likely came from a .380-caliber gun. The murder weapon was never found.
Investigators swabbed portions of the inside of the car for DNA evidence, but none was found. Police lifted three partial fingerprints from inside the car, but none matched Jones.
Still, prosecutors said they believed Jones was the killer.
Chaille said in court that cellphone records placed Jones at or near the crime scene. Lane had no reason to lie about the confession, he said.
Helge held up a picture of Rif and pointed to Jones, saying he killed the man.
Jurors didn’t agree.