Mike Duff, the Joneses’ attorney, said the charges weren’t directly connected to the injuries that Jesse sustained, but rather to several marijuana plants his clients were growing in their Amherst home. The marijuana was for the Joneses’ personal consumption, Duff said.
“They had nothing to do with the death of the child,” Duff said.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said additional endangering children charges that dealt with Jesse’s death were dropped as part of the plea.
“We were going to have a difficult time proving they were acting in loco parentis,” he said.
Under the law, however, it is illegal to put children in an environment where drugs are being used or grown, Will said. Both Jesse and the Joneses’ grandson were living in the couple’s home on Forest Hill Drive.
The marijuana plants were discovered when Amherst police went to the house seeking evidence that could show how Jesse was injured. In addition to the endangering children charges, the Joneses pleaded guilty to illegal cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Jesse was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center March 15, 2010, and died from his injuries a few days later. An autopsy performed by the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office determined the boy died of blunt head trauma, brain hemorrhages and pneumonia.
At the time of his death, both Jesse and his mother, Alyson Sweany, who has also pleaded guilty to endangering children charges in the case, were living with the Joneses. She was dating Peter Jones, who was the Joneses’ son and the father of her second child. That child has been removed from Sweany’s custody and is staying with relatives.
Exactly how Jesse was injured is a subject of dispute. Members of Jesse’s family on his father’s side said the boy was beaten and abused and there was evidence of prior injuries to the child.
But supporters of Sweany and the Jones family contend Jesse was injured a few days before he was taken to the hospital while climbing on a bookcase.
The bookcase toppled over, knocking over several items, some of which, including a laptop computer, hit Jesse in the head, according to Duff and others. The family has said that Jesse never told them about the incident and appeared normal in the days after the bookcase fell.
When he began acting strangely, the family contends, they took him to the hospital.
It wasn’t the first time Jesse had been taken to a hospital for serious injuries.
He was scalded in January 2009 while Peter Jones was giving the boy a bath, and Jones later pleaded guilty to endangering children charges in that case, although his lawyer has said that it was an accident.
Jones was never sentenced in the scalding case, however, because he hanged himself at his parents’ home June 15, 2010. At the time of Jones’ suicide, the investigation into Jesse’s death was not yet complete and Jones was never charged.
Will said prosecutors hadn’t been considering additional charges against Dallas Jones, 56, and Therese Jones as they had been with the 23-year-old Sweany.
Prosecutors had told Sweany’s lawyers that they planned to ask a grand jury to indict her for involuntary manslaughter in the case, which prompted her to agree to a plea earlier this month.
Sweany, as well as the Joneses, remain free on bond while they await sentencing. There are no agreed upon sentences in the case and all three could get prison time.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.