Man won’t face death penalty if convicted of murder
Philadelphia man charged with fatally stabbing woman, unborn child
NORRISTOWN » A Philadelphia man will not face the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of the mother of his unborn child in her Cheltenham apartment, prosecutors informed a judge.
Tristian Jones, 35, of the 900 block of East Johnson Street, showed no emotion May 17 as Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Alexandria MacMaster notified Judge Wendy G. Rothstein of the district attorney’s decision not to seek the death penalty against him. Jones is charged in connection with the Feb. 19, 2018, fatal stabbing of Eboney N. White, 31, and her unborn child in her apartment in the 2000 block of Mather Way in the Elkins Park section of Cheltenham.
With the death penalty off the table, if Jones is convicted of first-degree murder, which is an intentional killing, he will face a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Under state law, it’s at a formal arraignment hearing where prosecutors must notify a judge about their intentions regarding the death penalty. Jones’s formal arraignment hearing was May 17.
“Ultimately, the district attorney decided against pursuing the death penalty in this case. The victim’s family has been consulted on the matter as well and it was a joint decision not to pursue the death penalty in this case,” explained MacMaster, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp.
In order to obtain a death penalty, prosecutors must show that aggravating factors – circumstances that make a killing more heinous – outweigh any mitigating factors – circumstances that favor a defendant. Specifically, prosecutors have 18 aggravating factors, under state law, which they can use to seek the death penalty.
Rothstein set Jones’s trial date for Dec. 3.
Jones, who is represented by defense lawyer Carrie L. Allman, faces charges of first- and thirddegree murder, first- and third-degree murder of an unborn child, possession of an instrument of crime and unsworn falsification to authorities.
A conviction of third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
Jones, dressed in a maroon jailhouse jumpsuit, entered not guilty pleas to the charges May 17.
White was 7 ½ months pregnant at the time of her death. The fetus did not survive the attack.
An investigation began when Cheltenham police responded to White’s apartment at 3:20 a.m. Feb. 19 after receiving a 911 call from her 12-year-old daughter, who had retreated to a bathroom after allegedly seeing Jones stabbing her mother, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Todd Richard and Cheltenham Detective Ronald Cupo.
Police found White dead in the master bedroom with multiple stab wounds to her torso. White’s 12- and 7-year-old daughters were unharmed.
White’s daughter who made the 911 call told authorities she had seen her mother’s boyfriend, “Mr. Tristian,” in the doorway of her mother’s bedroom at approximately 2 a.m., according to the affidavit of probable cause. The girl reported she went to bed but was awakened by the sound of screaming approximately 45 minutes later. The girl told detectives she went to her mother’s bedroom and saw a man, wearing a grey sweatshirt, hood and a black mask, stabbing her mother with a knife.
“(The girl) stated she screamed at the male to stop hurting her mother and the male lunged at her with the knife in his hand,” detectives wrote in the arrest affidavit, adding the girl retreated to a bathroom and placed the 911 call.
An autopsy determined White died of multiple stab wounds, while the unborn male child died due to maternal stab wounds, according to the criminal complaint.
When he was interviewed by detectives on Feb. 19, Jones stated that while he is married, he and White had been dating since spring 2017 and she was carrying his child, who was due in early April 2018, according to the arrest affidavit. Jones allegedly said the two had discussed introducing their children to each other on the day of White’s death and that she had been “mad” he was not ending his marriage.
Detectives alleged Jones gave inconsistent descriptions of the clothing he had been wearing Feb. 18 and 19 and about his whereabouts around the time of the killing.
Jones’s wife told authorities she had not seen him between 4:30 p.m. Feb. 18 and 5:30 a.m. Feb. 19 when he returned to the apartment after what she believed had been a shift at work, according to the arrest affidavit.
In the two days leading up to White’s death, a string of text messages revealed White and Jones discussing their unborn child — whom they called Travis — and his impact on their families. They discussed how to talk to their other children about their affair, with Jones writing he “committed a sin” and seeming to struggle with how he would teach his children “fornication is a sin” when that is what he had committed.
“I don’t want any of the kids including yours thinking sex before marriage is okay,” Jones allegedly wrote in one text message.
White’s mother told police she had been concerned about Jones’s attitude toward the pregnancy, according to the arrest affidavit. She relayed White had told her Jones had once given her a “white foamy” liquid and asked her to drink it and later gave her what she believed was a soda can that had been tampered with, both of which she refused to drink.