Update: Stepfather accused in murder of 2-year-old stepson pleads not guilty to charges

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Tuesday — Tieray Jones pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and child abuse charges. 

Jones faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted in the death of Jahi Turner. He is being held without bail. 

Monday — Tieray Dawayne Jones is scheduled to be in court Tuesday morning to face two chargers: first-degree murder and felony assault on a child causing death. 

Jones was arrested in North Carolina on suspicion of murdering his toddler stepson, Jahi Turner who was reported missing from Balboa Park 14 years ago. Saturday, he returned to San Diego to face the charges after waiving extradition. He was booked into San Diego Central Jail downtown about 8:30 p.m. Saturday and was being held on $5.1 million bail. 

Sunday — Tieray Dawayne Jones was booked into San Diego Central Jail downtown Friday night, according to Sheriff’s online jail records. He is being hold on a $5.1 million bail and is scheduled to appear in the San Diego Superior Court Felony Arraignment department Tuesday morning. He is accused of killing his two-year-old stepson Jahi Turner 14 years ago. 

Jones reported Turner missing, claiming he left him with a woman and other children at a Balboa Park-area playground while he purchased a soda from a vending machine only to discover they were wall gone upon his return.

Jones was charged with one count of first degree murder and one count of felony assault on a child causing death. Authorities have not disclosed what developments occurred leading to the revival of what had become a cold case. 

Tuesday — A man arrested in North Carolina on suspicion of murdering his toddler stepson, who was reported missing from a Balboa Park-area playground 14 years ago, waived extradition Tuesday and will be returned to San Diego within 30 days.

4/18/16 — An East Coast man was arrested Monday on suspicion of murdering his toddler stepson, who was reported missing from a Balboa Park-area playground 14 years ago and whose body has never been found.

Tieray Dawayne Jones, 37, was taken into custody in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on suspicion of killing 2-year-old Jahi Turner, San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced at an afternoon briefing at downtown SDPD headquarters.

Jones is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of murder and child abuse causing death. If he agrees not to fight extradition, he will be brought to San Diego within 30 days to stand trial, officials said.

Authorities declined to disclose what led to the belated arrest in the high-profile case, which had proved so devoid of developments that it began to seem like one that might never be solved.

Dumanis told reporters she hadn’t been sure over the years that "this day would ever come,” describing the longtime unsolved case as one that "weighed heavily on all our hearts.”

"Jahi’s disappearance rocked the community to its core 14 years ago,” she said.

The suspect reported the youngster missing on April 25, 2002. At the time, he lived in a Golden Hill apartment with Jahi and the child’s 18-year-old mother, Navy sailor Tameka Jones.

The stepfather told police he had brought Jahi to a park at Cedar and 28th streets, left him with a woman and several other children to get a soda from a nearby vending machine and returned to find them all gone.

Authorities at the time declined to comment on news reports that Jahi had not been to that playground at all that day and had failed a lie-detector test.

The boy’s disappearance prompted weeks of intensive searches of canyons, fields and neighborhoods in the area, as well as a grueling weeklong sweep of the Miramar Landfill. The efforts turned up no evidence regarding what had become of Jahi, who soon became considered a likely homicide victim.

Seven months after the child vanished, his stepfather was arrested by a bounty hunter in San Diego and taken to Maryland to face unrelated drug charges. In 2006, Jones pleaded no contest to an assault charge stemming from a shooting in that state and was sentenced to five years in prison, according to the Frederick News-Post.

Though the investigation into Jahi’s suspected murder ultimately stalled, authorities remained committed to solving the case one day, Dumanis told reporters.

"We never gave up on finding justice for Jahi,” she said.

About two years ago, a new team of investigators began developing fresh leads in the case, Zimmerman said.

Throughout the last 14 years, detectives were intent on recovering the child’s body as well as finding his killer, police Capt. David Nisleit told reporters.

"And that is still one of our goals, to find Jahi,” Nisleit said.

Categories: Local San Diego News