May 11, 2014
A Flint man who killed an elderly woman when he was 14 was spared life in prison Friday, May 9, becoming the first person sentenced in Genesee County under a new law that gives judges more leeway in juvenile murder cases.
Genesee Circuit Judge Archie Hayman sentenced Mark Anthony Jones Jr. Friday, May 9, to 40-60 years in prison after he was convicted of first-degree felony murder for the Nov. 16, 2010, fatal shooting and robbery of 73-year-old Merlyne Wray.
Jones, 18, is the first person in Genesee County to have his murder sentence lessened following a law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder earlier this year.
Under the old law, Hayman would have had to sentence Jones to either life or life without parole.
Wray’s family said they would liked a longer sentence.
Mark Jones sentencing hearing Mark Jones Jr. is sentenced to 40-60 years in prison for the killing of a 73-year-old Flint woman.
“We were hoping for life without parole,” Wray’s granddaughter, Karen Kluten, said after Hayman handed down the sentence. “I’d liked to watch his face when they said that.”
Hayman was forced to decide on what type of sentence he would issue Jones following a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that declared mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for juveniles unconstitutional.
Felony murder carries a statutory sentence of life in prison without parole for adults, but the law Snyder signed in March gave judges the discretion to sentence teen killers to life in prison or 25 to more than 60 years in prison in light of the Supreme Court decision.
“Mark Jones walked into the home of Merlyne Wray, killed her in cold blood with a single gunshot to her back, stole her wallet, car, and other items and left her body in a reclining chair where she was found by her son-in-law the next day,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said. “Our position is that, taken in its entirety, with the facts of this case and Mark Jones’ background, a life sentence without parole would have been appropriate in the interests of justice and public safety.”
Genesee Circuit Judge Archie Hayman listened to two days of testimony during a sentencing hearing in March, which included a school official, psychologist, police officer and Jones’ parents, in order to help him decide what type of sentence to hand down Jones — who was only 14 when he killed Wray.
Hayman said that Jones had no chance of becoming a productive member of society due to his father being in prison most of his life and his mother letting him live “out of control.”
While Hayman said that it was Jones who made the decision to kill Wray on his own, his parents share much of the responsibility for what happened due to his poor upbringing.
“They were not there for him in the way they should have been,” Hayman said of Jones’ parents.
Hayman also said he believes Jones is capable of turning his life around.
Jones’ mother, Tiniya Tyler, said she was not happy with the outcome of the case. She testified previously that she felt her son was not responsible for Wray’s death.
“I didn’t like it,” Tyler said after the sentencing hearing, claiming that her son’s attorneys failed to call witnesses she provided in the case. “It’s all a setup.”
Attorneys Major White and Jessica Mainprize-Hajek, who represented Jones, asked Hayman to forgo life in prison and sentence their client to a term of years, claiming that life in prison for a crime committed at 14 is cruel and unusual punishment.
The pair argued that Jones is a product of his environment, but that he still has the capacity to be rehabilitated.
Hayman said that Jones’ age was not a factor in his decision, noting that a 14-year-old understands the dangers of a gun and the difference between life and death.
Jones’ attorneys declined to comment after the sentencing.
Kluten had strong words for her grandmother’s murderer before Hayman handed down his sentence, calling Jones a “cold-blooded killer” who could kill again.
“Don’t make another family endure this torture,” Kluten said.
Kluten said her grandmother was always willing to help people and was known as the “candy lady” around the neighborhood.
“My grandma would have given him her money, her car to spare her life,” Kluten said.
Jones apologized briefly before he was sentenced.
“I just want to tell the family that I’m sorry,” Jones said.
Wray’s body was found in her Leland Street home, near Atherton and Fenton roads, by her son-in-law the day after the shooting. She was found in a reclining chair with a bullet wound to her back. Her vehicle and other items, including her wallet and cell phone, were also missing.
Authorities said Jones attempted to use Wray’s credit card the day after the killing.
Hayman also sentenced Jones to 23 years, nine months to 38 years, four months in prison for armed robbery and carjacking. He was sentenced to 2-5 years for carrying a concealed weapon and a breaking and entering charge. Those sentences will be served concurrent to the murder charge.