By Rob Schneider
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A flurry of angry text messages set the stage for a meeting in Terre Haute between a divorced couple that spiraled into a deadly confrontation.
Ind. victim Jessica Jones, shown here with her four children and ex-husband, Major Jones. (Clip Syndicate) Watch Video
Before the incident ended early Thursday, a Terre Haute mother of four would be dead, and her ex-husband would lead police on a 40-mile chase along I-70 until his sport utility vehicle could go no farther. An Indiana State Police trooper fatally shot him, police said, as he held a child on his lap and appeared to point a gun at officers.
Her four children, ages 2 to 6, were with Jessica Jones, 26, "and watched their father kill their mother," said Bill Bergherm, the Terre Haute Police Department's assistant chief of criminal investigations.
Police said she was shot at least seven times by her ex-husband, Major Jones III, 27, Indianapolis, as she tried to escape into a motel lobby late Wednesday.
Major Jones took the children out of her van and put them in his SUV. Three of the four children were the couple's, and the fourth was Jessica's, Bergherm said. Jones headed east on I-70 and was quickly spotted by police.
Officers used tire-deflation devices to try to stop the SUV, blowing out the vehicle's front tires and right rear tire. But the vehicle continued on for about 40 miles before stopping when the wheels were so worn down that they wouldn't turn anymore, said Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Richard Myers. At times, the SUV reached 90 mph, police said.
Sgt. Richard Myers of the Ind. State Police talks to the media. Watch Video (Clip Syndicate)
Jones released three of the four children but then began pointing the gun toward police officers and at the child sitting on his lap, Myers said.
That's when Trooper Terry Watson, 27, fired one shot, striking and killing Jones. Watson is a member of the State Police emergency response team and was on duty during the chase.
Any officer at a scene like that has to act on the information available, said State Police 1st Sgt. David Bursten. In this case, Jones was wanted for questioning in a homicide, Bursten said, and had been on the run.
"If he is wanted for suspicion of killing one person, what's the difference to that individual if he kills more than one person?" Bursten said of the decision to use deadly force.
If the person begins making threatening gestures with a gun, as police said Jones did, "you can't wait for the bad guy to shoot first," Bursten said.
The incident started at a prearranged meeting about 10:50 p.m. Wednesday. The couple agreed to meet at the Ramada Inn in Terre Haute so Jones could pay his former wife child support, Bergherm said. Jones had asked to stop by her home, but Bergherm said she refused.
Officers used tire-deflation devices to try to stop the SUV of murder suspect Major Jones, blowing out the vehicle's front tires and right rear tire. The vehicle continued on for about 40 miles before stopping when the wheels were so worn down that they wouldn't turn anymore.
Police believe text messages found on Jessica Jones' cell phone help explain what happened next. The messages indicated Jones didn't want anyone else to have a relationship with his ex-wife, and Bergherm said Jones knew she was seeing someone else.
Investigators did not release the contents of the messages.
Witnesses at the Ramada reported hearing a woman scream and saw Jones holding a woman in a headlock with a gun pointed at her head, Bergherm said. The woman was forced into the van, and as it started down the road, she managed to get out and run across U.S. 41 to the Drury Inn, where she worked.
Because of the hour, the door was locked. Jones called out to the clerk, whom she knew, "Open the door; he is going to kill me."
She never made it inside.
During an autopsy Thursday, seven bullets from a large-caliber handgun were recovered from Jessica Jones' body, said Vigo County Coroner Dr. Ronald Kohr. Jones had been struck in her extremities and twice in the head.
Jessica Jones filed for divorce in August 2005, and the dissolution was granted in June 2006, Marion Superior Court records show.
Jones was to pay $151 a week in child support for his three children. The court granted joint custody, with Jessica Jones having primary custody.
The Associated Press reported that county officials were working to place the children with Jessica Jones' mother.
Sharon Moore, a family friend, said relatives were stunned by the turn of events.
"His personality was great; he loved his kids," Moore said. "This is a church family. . . . There is nothing you can say bad about him."
She pointed out that Jones' mother was instrumental in establishing The House of Refuge, a home for battered women.
"We never would have thought this would have happened."
Copyright 2007 The Indianapolis Star
Ind. police fatally shoot gunman holding child