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Stories Added - November 2010
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DNA test shows hair didn’t belong to Jones
San Jacinto News- Times
COLDSPRING – A DNA test on a one-inch strand of hair has cast doubt for some on the guilt of a Texas man who was put to death 10 years ago for the murder of Point Blank liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager but for at least one witness, there is no doubt of guilt. “Who actually pulled the trigger, I don’t know, but I believe they all were guilty in the planning and the commission of the robbery,” said Greg Magee. Magee, who was a San Jacinto County constable at the time of the murder, was a witness during Jones’ trial. The hair was the only piece of physical evidence linking Claude Jones to the crime scene. However; recently completed DNA analysis found the hair did not belong to Jones and instead probably came from the murder victim. According to information obtained from the Texas Attorney General’s offi ce, Jones, 60, was executed by lethal injection on Dec. 7 in Huntsville. In Nov. 1989, Jones entered Zell’s liquor store in Point Blank and asked Hilzendager to retrieve a bottle for him. As Hilzendager turned to get the bottle, Jones shot him three times with a .357 Magnum revolver. Jones took $900 from the cash register and fl ed in a getaway vehicle waiting outside. Waiting in the car were Jones’ two accomplices, Kerry Daniel Dixon Jr. and Timothy Mark Jordan. Three days later, the trio robbed a bank in Humble, Texas, obtaining $14,000 in loot. They then went on a weekend trip to Las Vegas. About three weeks after the liquor store robbery, Jones was arrested in Florida for bank robbery. Jones had 11 prior convictions in Texas for crimes including murder, armed robbery, assault and burglary. He served six years of a nine-year prison sentence from 1959 to 1963 and three years of a fi ve-year sentence from 1963 to 1965. In 1976, he was convicted of murder, robbery and assault in Kansas and received a life sentence. While in Kansas prison, Jones killed another inmate. He was paroled in 1984. Dixon also had a lengthy prior record that included murder and two prison terms. The evidence at Jones’ trial was conclusive, according to records fi led with the attorney general’s offi ce. A number of witnesses placed Jones at the scene of the crime, including Leon Goodson, who heard the shots and watched Jones leave the liquor store. Also, Timothy Jordan testifi ed against his partners in crime. Jones wads convicted of capital murder and received the death sentence. Dixon was convicted of murder and received a 60-year prison term. Jordan received a 10-year prison term. Magee was the first officer on the scene. “I was stopped in front of the store to make a left turn into the parking lot of the liquor store, waiting on cars to pass to make the turn. I observed the subjects’ truck parked on the side of the store along Counts Road. While waiting for the cars to pass, I decided to go home because my wife was waiting with supper. Upon entering my house, which is just a few miles from the store, the call came about the robbery and shooting. “Based on information obtained that night Deputy Linda Hunter and Deputy Jerry Healy and I traveled to Conroe and videoed the vehicle I observed at the store. We also videoed one of the suspects thought to be Dixon. During the course of the investigation, witnesses came forward of the purchasing of the weapon, about the trio going to a cemetery to target practice with the weapon used to murder Hilzendager and the planning of the robbery. Shells found in the cemetery and the bullets in the trees matched the weapon,” Magee said. Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that uses DNA to exonerate inmates and worked on Jones’ case, said that the hair doesn’t prove an innocent man was put to death. But he said the findings mean the evidence was insufficient under Texas law to convict Jones. In the closing weeks of then- Gov. George W. Bush’s term and as the execution drew near, Jones was asking the governor’s office for permission to do a DNA test on the hair. However, the briefing papers Bush was given by his staff didn’t include the request for the testing and Bush denied a reprieve, according to state documents obtained by the Innocence Project. The lead attorney representing Jones during his trial was Gerald Crow of Conroe. Fritz Faulkner, who now serves as San Jacinto County Judge, was second chair for Jones’ court appointed defense. “I believe Jones received a fair trial,” Faulkner said Friday. He declined to make any further comments. Last week in Houston Scheck and former Texas Gov. Mark White called for a moratorium on executions in Texas and called on the coming Legislature to implement wide-ranging changes in the way courts and governors handle death cases as a result of Jones’ execution. Adding to their case for reform are Anthony Graves, who was exonerated after spending 18 years on death row for a Brenham- area murder he did not commit and Cameron Willingham, who was executed in 2004 on the basis of flawed investigations of a Corsicana house fire in which his three children died.