Murder trial postponed
Man accused of killing pregnant woman in her Cheltenham apartment now faces February trial
The December trial for a Philadelphia man accused of fatally stabbing the mother of his unborn child in her Cheltenham apartment has been postponed while lawyers battle over pretrial issues in the case.
The trial for Tristian Jones, originally slated to begin Dec. 3, will now begin on Feb. 19, 2019, which is the one year anniversary of the alleged murder, according to an order filed by Montgomery County Judge Wendy G. Rothstein. The trial is expected to last about a week.
Meanwhile, the judge has set aside Dec. 3 for a pretrial hearing in the case.
At that time, the judge is expected to consider a request by prosecutors who want the jury to hear the 911 call made by the victim’s 12-year-old daughter who retreated to a bathroom of the residence after allegedly observing Jones stabbing her mother.
Prosecutors Alexandria MacMaster and Kristen J. Kemp argued the 911 audio recording is admissible as a “present-sense impression” and an “excited utterance” under the law and should be heard by the jury.
Jones, 35, of the 900 block of East Johnson Street, faces murder charges 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.
“Seeing her mother being stabbed to death and covered in blood right after she heard her mother screaming was clearly a startling event for (the child). The 911 call contains statements she made while under the stress of excitement caused by the ho-
micide,” MacMaster and Kemp wrote in pretrial court papers.
“Her statements were spontaneous and subject to an overpowering emotion caused by the shock of seeing the bloody crime scene and her mother Eboney White being stabbed to death,” the prosecutors argued.
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.
If he’s convicted of firstdegree murder, which is an intentional killing, Jones faces life imprisonment. A conviction of third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
White was 7½ 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, 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 12and 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.