Reflections of a re­tired homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tor

Long­time Mary­land State Po­lice trooper plans to pub­lish book

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­news.com

Raised in an area of Bal­ti­more City con­sid­ered among the most dan­ger­ous in the coun­try, long­time homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ted Jones, a re­tired Mary­land State Po­lice trooper of­ten tasked with covertly gath­er­ing in­tel­li­gence, has a re­mark­able story to tell.

In fact, he wrote a book — “Pro­tect and Serve: Reflections of a Mary­land State Trooper.” Jones, now chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the Charles County State’s At­tor­ney Of­fice, plans to pub­lish in the spring.

From un­der­cover prison stints, to im­mers­ing him­self into Charm City’s open-air drug mar­kets, to pos­ing as a car salesman, Jones’ work re­quired him to wear a num­ber of dif­fer­ent hats. Some­times he wore his hat back­wards and dressed down, dis­cretely doc­u­ment­ing as nar­cotics changed hands, his gun con­cealed in a folded news­pa­per, while an FBI sur­veil­lance team watched his back from an in­con­spic­u­ous van parked across the street.

“You have no clue that I’m the po­lice, and I don’t want you to know I’m the po­lice, how about that?” Jones said. “Be­cause when I re­ally get into what I’m do­ing, work­ing homi­cides, you can’t go into the hood do­ing what I do, ad­ver­tis­ing that you’re the po­lice.”

“I don’t want you to know who I am,” he added. “Be­cause lives de­pend on it, mine es­pe­cially.”

Awards and ci­ta­tions ac­cu­mu­lated through­out his ca­reer are kept out of sight, tucked away in a drawer at home — he in­sists he was just do­ing his job. All but one: an award from the Fed­eral Bar As­so­ci­a­tion’s Dis­trict of Columbia chap­ter which he proudly dis­plays. In 1998, Jones, who had just re­cently been as­signed to the fed­eral task force in­ves­ti­ga­tion, elicited a con­fes­sion that cracked a cold case and re­vealed the cul­prits re­spon­si­ble for the heinous act that left three young women dead, shot ex­e­cu­tion-style in a se­cluded area off of Route 197 in Lau­rel.

The con­fes­sion yielded three con­vic­tions. Dustin Higgs, the prin­ci­ple per­pe­tra­tor who or­dered Wil­lis Haynes to shoot the women, be­came the first of only two people from Mary­land to re­ceive a fed­eral death sen­tence, ac­cord­ing to the Death Penalty In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter and court records. To­day, he awaits lethal in­jec­tion as a death row in­mate at Terre Haute Pen­i­ten­tiary in In­di­ana. Haynes is serv­ing a life sen­tence with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role. Vic­tor Glo­ria, who told Jones how an ar­gu­ment dur­ing the early hours of Jan. 27, 1996, turned into a triple homi­cide, pleaded guilty as an ac­ces­sory af­ter the fact in ex­change for his tes­ti­mony.

When Glo­ria had first met Jones, it was at a car deal­er­ship. Glo­ria was ac­com­pa­ny­ing Haynes who had used a bad check and a fake name to essen­tially steal a ve­hi­cle from the deal­er­ship months be­fore, and had re­turned to ex­change his tem­po­rary tags for a per­ma­nent li­cense plate. Jones, pro­vided with a com­pany shirt and of­fice space, had Haynes fill out pa­per­work, which was ac­tu­ally chem­i­cally treated paper that lifted his fin­ger­prints. The ploy worked and proved he was not who he was pre­tend­ing to be.

Haynes and Glo­ria were later ar­rested, Glo­ria on fed­eral drug charges. He had un­know­ingly sold mar­i­juana to a Prince Ge­orge’s County de­tec­tive in a con­trolled buy ear­lier in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. When brought in for ques­tion­ing at an FBI fa­cil­ity, Glo­ria was sur­prised to see Jones, the guy from the deal­er­ship, who now iden­ti­fied him­self as a state trooper.

“It’s about those girls, isn’t it?” Glo­ria blurted out, as Jones re­mem­bers. Up un­til this point, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors had only a mere sus­pi­cion that he might know some­thing about the killings. As it turned out he was there, and his tes­ti­mony was over­whelm­ingly cor­rob­o­rated by ev­i­dence al­ready on file that pointed to Higgs as the main sus­pect.

“I said, ‘as a mat­ter a fact it is about those girls. You didn’t think we for­got about that did you?’” Jones re­called. “… and he gave me a full con­fes­sion as to what he knew. He wrote it out; I took it. I came out of the in­ter­view room, fist pumped the air a hun­dred times. Yes, yes, yes.”

Af­ter nearly three years and count­less hours of in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Jones had found the miss­ing piece to the puz­zle.

“That made the case,” said re­tired Prince Ge­orge’s County Det. Mark Coul­ter, a mem­ber of the task force known for his un­canny abil­ity to find people that of­ten did not want to be found. “That con­fes­sion was very crit­i­cal. It ex­plained the nar­ra­tive past ev­ery­thing that hap­pened the night that the murders were com­mit­ted.”

“This guy’s name was men­tioned nowhere in any of the re­ports I read,” Jones said, “but the rea­son he knew so much about it was be­cause he was present when they were mur­dered. He was in the van while they were mur­dered.”

“When he said it’s about those girls, I al­most fell out of my chair,” Jones said. “… But I had to keep it cool.”

Glo­ria laid out the hor­rific de­tails of how it all went down. The three men, Higgs, Haynes and Glo­ria, had picked up the three women from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for drinks back at a Lau­rel apart­ment. Later in the night, Higgs got into an al­ter­ca­tion with one of the women who re­buffed his ad­vances, and the women left, one mak­ing threats as they ex­ited. When Higgs saw her out­side writ­ing down his li­cense plate num­ber, he grabbed a hand­gun and told Haynes and Glo­ria to come on.

Feign­ing an apol­ogy, Higgs told Tamika Black, 19, Tanji Jack­son, 21, and Mis­hann Chinn, 23, that he would drive them back into the city, and con­vinced them to get inside his blue Mazda MPV van, court records show. Higgs, how­ever, had a much more sin­is­ter plan in mind. When he drove right past the exit ramp that would have taken them di­rectly into Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and in­stead con­tin­ued on, even­tu­ally turn­ing into an iso­lated area near the Patux­ent Wildlife Re­search Cen­ter, the women as­sumed that they had been tricked and would be made to walk from there. When asked if that was his in­ten­tion, he replied, “Some­thing like that,” and handed Haynes a sil­ver .380 cal­iber hand­gun, and watched as the women were taken from the van and shot one by one, a scene Glo­ria wit­nessed through the back­seat win­dow of the van. The gun was later thrown into the Ana­cos­tia River, never to be re­cov­ered.

“I had got­ten con­fes­sions be­fore, but none like this. This was sim­ply over the top for me,” Jones said. “Any death is un­for­tu­nate, but this was the heinous mur­der of three women that were com­pletely in­no­cent. It was vi­o­lence against women at its worst.”

Years ear­lier, when Jones first learned of the murders from a morn­ing news re­port on TV as he dressed for his shift, it struck a cord, and he found him­self wish­ing he could work the case. He had just re­cently lost a loved one, his niece who had been shot and killed by her abu­sive hus­band. Lit­tle did he know, he would solve the case nearly three years later.

“I didn’t do any of this by my­self,” Jones said. “People gave me the op­por­tu­nity, people sup­ported me all along the way. You can’t do these things by your­self. Trust me, I just came in to­wards the end of this case and was suc­cess­ful in get­ting the con­fes­sion, but the credit goes cer­tainly to [U.S.] Park Po­lice who worked it ini­tially and my fel­low task force of­fi­cers.”

This is but one chap­ter in Jones’ ca­reer with the Mary­land State Po­lice, a ca­reer that took him all across the coun­try. He brought down an in­sur­ance fraud mill in Bal­ti­more, con­ducted 24-hour sur­veil­lance on a sus­pected tar­get of the D.C. sniper dur­ing his 2002 killing spree, as­sisted in the af­ter­math of the Sept. 11 at­tacks, and helped solve the mur­der of his fel­low trooper and close friend who was gunned down in an un­der­cover op­er­a­tion gone awr y.

“When we had the task force to­gether, there were a lot of in­ves­ti­ga­tors that I worked with, and one thing I will say about Ted is that he has the type of chem­istry where he could work with all in­ves­ti­ga­tors,” Coul­ter said. “And he took that same chem­istry and he used that in do­ing his job.”

“There’d be people out there who didn’t want to talk to any­body for any num­ber of rea­sons, but they felt com­fort­able with con­nect­ing and talk­ing with Mr. Jones,” he added. “I wouldn’t have wanted to work with any­body else when it came down to the type of work we did. The guy was ex­cel­lent.”

To­day, Jones wears a dif­fer­ent hat yet again, as a civil­ian. As chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the Charles County State’s At­tor­neys Of­fice, he pro­vides var­i­ous in­ves­tiga­tive as­sis­tance to the agency’s pros­e­cu­tors, and is ded­i­cated to pre­vent­ing young people from en­ter­ing the court­house through “the wrong door,” as he calls it. He of­ten trav­els through­out the county with State’s At­tor­ney An­thony Cov­ing­ton and en­gages the community. Last year in June, they spoke at a NAACP town hall meet­ing dis­cussing at-risk youth and what can be done to help pre­vent them from en­ter­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Born from that dis­cus­sion was the of­fice’s soon-to-be­gin “Think About It” cam­paign, an idea pre­sented to Cov­ing­ton by Jones.

“I en­joy see­ing young people ex­cel ... I’m very en­cour­aged by that, and I try to en­cour­age them and try to help in any way pos­si­ble,” Jones said. “They’re the fu­ture to a bet­ter community, the young people.”

The cam­paign aims to ed­u­cate youth in the community, es­pe­cially at a school set­ting, about the po­ten­tial con­se­quences of be­ing ar­rested, how it will af­fect them later in life, and ex­plains how the law works, in­clud­ing a mock traf­fic stop with au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“Pro­tect our women, pro­tect our chil­dren, and pro­tect the el­derly, ev­ery­one else can fend for them­selves for the most part,” Jones said, re­flect­ing on his ca­reer. “My pas­sion, my fo­cus was on safe com­mu­ni­ties, keep­ing ev­ery­body safe, to pro­tect and serve. To bring clo­sure, if there’s such a thing to some­one who has lost a loved one, to bring ac­count­abil­ity to who­ever is re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing one’s life through our es­tab­lished jus­tice sys­tem,” he con­tin­ued. “That’s what mat­tered to me.

“That was my mis­sion,” he said. “I lived it ev­ery day.”

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Re­tired Mary­land State Po­lice homi­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ted Jones stands be­fore the Charles County Cir­cuit Court in La Plata, where he now works as the state’s at­tor­ney’s chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW RICHARD­SON

Ted Jones speaks at a NAACP town hall meet­ing held at Bethel Community Church in Bryans Road last June to dis­cuss what adults can do to pre­vent at-risk youth from en­ter­ing or re­turn­ing to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. The dis­cus­sion gave birth to the state’s at­tor­neys of­fice’s “Think About It” cam­paign, aimed to ed­u­cate the youth on the po­ten­tial con­se­quences of their ac­tions.

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