Jury finds Jones guilty of attempted murder in Forest CountySubmitted: 05/22/2015
CRANDON - Ray Jones is guilty of attempted murder in Forest County.

A jury made that decision after an hour and 26 minutes of deliberations on Friday. They had heard from lawyers and 19 different witnesses over the course of four days.

Jones was on trial for his role in a series of assaults on Steven Roberts in March 2014. Witnesses testified that Jones and his friend, Justin Bey, repeatedly choked, kicked, hit, and stomped on Roberts over the course of two days. They then left him, in a battered state, in the remote woods east of Crandon as overnight temperatures dropped near zero. A pair of ATV riders found Roberts after he had been in the woods for about 20 hours. The man had several broken ribs and facial bones, and was suffering from severe frostbite.

Before the verdict was delivered, Jones said he was "scared" and "nervous" about learning the jury's decision.

Jones, 46, could be sentenced to a term of up to 40 years in prison, with 20 years of extended supervision. That determination will be made at a later sentencing hearing on August 11. Jones' friend, Bey, has already reached a plea deal in the case. Forest County District Attorney Chuck Simono will ask for 30 years in prison for Bey at Bey's sentencing in August.

The jury of nine men and five women, two of whom became alternates, had heard from 18 prosecution witnesses and two defense witnesses, with one witness called by both sides.

Roberts, the victim, was the final prosecution witness on Thursday.

"I got beat up for two days, and left out in the woods for twenty-some-odd hours in freezing cold weather," testified Roberts.

"What did you hear (Jones and Bey) talking about with regards to leaving you for the wolves?" Simono, the prosecutor, asked Roberts while he was on the stand.

"They told me that hopefully they'll smell the blood, the wolves would come get me, and kill me," Roberts replied.

"How many times, in total, do you think you'd been hit and beat, over the two days?" Simono asked.

"I have no idea," Roberts said, appearing to think hard. "It was quite a few. I couldn't begin to count how many times."

Simono looked to prove that Jones and Bey had a roughly equal part in the assaults and the move to leave Roberts in the woods. He also looked to prove an intent by Jones to kill Roberts.

"[Jones] just kept saying that he thought we were getting away with murder, that the elements if what we did didn't kill [Roberts], that the elements, the weather, would, and with the smell of blood out there, that the wolves would possibly get him," Bey said during his testimony for the prosecution on Thursday.

Defense attorney Brian Bennett tried to point out inconsistencies in Bey's story, like how Bey originally said Jones had ordered him to carry out the beatings. Bey later admitted that he took many of the actions out of his own free will. Throughout the trial, Bennett attempted to show the jury that Bey had an outsized role in the events, with Jones playing a more minor role.

One of Bennett's two witnesses was April Jones, the wife of Ray Jones. She described when her husband came home after the beatings.

"He slid his face up, and he looked at me, and he had said, 'Honey, I think he killed that man,'" April Jones recalled. She clarified that her husband was talking about Bey killing Roberts.

Ray Jones did not testify in his own defense. He was also convicted by the jury of two lesser crimes, kidnapping and aggravated battery. Just before the trial started, he had pleaded no contest to five other crimes in relation to the events.

Ostensibly, the actions of Jones and Bey took on Roberts were in retaliation for something Roberts had done to a child Jones knew. Some witnesses highlighted how Jones believed Roberts had inappropriately touched the child.

"He grabbed [the child's] private parts," Jones had said during an interview with investigators, a video recording of which was played for the jury.

Other witnesses testified that the contact between Roberts and the child was an open-handed tap on the child's buttocks. According to court documents, Jones used the contact as justification for what he did to Roberts.

Jones told a different story on the same video interview.

"Justin [Bey] commenced to beating the f*** out of [Roberts]," Jones explained on the recording. "Took him down County W, took him out of the car. Justin punched him one time in the face, shot his jaw and his nose. All I did was take a piss. I didn't kick him, I didn't touch him, nothing."

Bey told the story differently.

"[Jones] was saying that [Roberts] should be dead," Bey said.

Roberts, the victim, was in the courtroom when the verdict was presented. He embraced social workers and Simono after the decision. Jones had no expression as his handcuffs were put on.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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