The death penalty case against 44-year-old Rodney Renia Young got emotional in day two of the trial Tuesday with both family members of the victim and jurors appearing shocked, and sometimes crying at the evidence presented in the brutal 2008 murder of 28-year-old Gary Jones.
"Brutal, heinous, savage, senseless, cold-blooded and premeditated are just a few of the words that I can use to describe the murder that Rodney Young committed in Covington," said Newton County District Attorney Layla Zon in opening statements Monday afternoon.
"The fact is, the English language does not contain adequate words for me to use to describe to you what you're going to see and hear about. Your memory will never let you forget what you're about to see."
Capital Defense Attorney Joseph Romond didn't argue against Zon's statements that the murder of Jones was brutal. He didn't even argue that Young was not guilty. The defense will try to save the life of Young by proving that he is guilty but mentally ill.
"There is no one in this room that is not going to feel the deep and profound sadness and loss of this young man," Romond told the jury. "We will never, throughout the course of this trial, disrespect that. What we are going to try to do throughout the course of this trial is to polish a new set of lenses in which to view this tragedy."
Romond said that while Young's body developed into that of a man, his mind stayed put in childhood. And when faced with stressful situations Young had two responses: tears or rage. Romond also said that Young never lived alone, was unable to do basic things like cook or even manage a bank account.
Throughout the first day of the trial jurors heard from Shanika Cole, Jones' girlfriend at the time of his murder. She testified that she last spoke with Jones when the two made plans after church to have dinner together the day he was killed - March 30, 2008.
"He said he was going home to change clothes and he would be at my house in 30 minutes," she said, tearing up. "My cousin called me around midnight and told me they had found Gary."
It was Jones' mother Doris that found him when she arrived home from work around 11:20 p.m. The anguish in her voice was palpable as the 911 tape was played for jurors, many of whom cried along with Jones' family.
"I was scared," Doris Jones testified, wiping tears from her eyes. "I just wanted to know what was wrong with him. I started to go toward him but I felt a chill come over me and I backed out of the house. I was screaming and I called 911."
"My son is in the house. He's tied up to a chair... help me, help me please! ...there's blood all over. Oh God, I need help! Please Lord, let him be okay... I need somebody to help him!"
Jones' mother, girlfriend and grandmother had tried to reach him that afternoon and evening to no avail. What Jones' mother found when she opened the door to the home, was her firstborn son tied to a chair, still dressed in his Sunday suit. His legs bound by material that came from what appeared to be curtains - his arms bound by a cord from a lamp. Blood covered the walls, the floors and his body, his head was covered with a green, bloodstained towel.
Jurors covered their mouths as horrific pictures of Jones from the murder scene and autopsy were shown. The beating was so severe that pieces of his skull were found in the dining room, along with a hammer and a large kitchen knife, both covered with his blood.
The entire house was in disarray. Some of it appeared staged, according to GBI Special Agent Cecil Hudgins who was the crime scene investigator in the case. Drawers in the bedrooms were pulled out and emptied, the kitchen and living room were ransacked and the glass on the door leading to the backyard was shattered. Also laying in the room were curtains with a pattern matching the material used to bind Jones' legs.
On the walls leading upstairs and in some of the bedrooms were several writings with a marker reading things like, "Wes will get you too Atl. Mob - $25,000 dead in 20 days - 20 days to get out of state - Wes know what you look like"
Defense attorneys for Young did not deny that he wrote those things, but did stress that the scene was "chaotic and disorganized."
According to the prosecution, Jones was killed by Young not for anything he had done personally, but because of the on again, off again relationship with Jones' mother Doris.
Doris and Young had been together off and on for around seven years. They would fight, break up, and he would call and send gifts and letters and they would get back together. When she left him, she would often flee New Jersey where both were from to Covington where Jones lived and worked, for a time, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
Doris had last left him and broken her engagement to Young in January 2007. She came to Covington and moved in with Jones and despite several letters from Young in February and one in March (just two days before Jones was killed) begging her to come back, Doris refused.
"He was always persistent," she said of why she would take him back. "He kept calling and would do nice things for me. I thought things might change... But I was just tired."
The last letter Doris received from Young said "I miss you so much I can't think right." Two days later, her son was dead.
The trial continues in the courtroom of Superior Judge Samuel Ozburn.