For months, former Charleston firefighter Clinton Edward Jones thought about how to get rid of his wife, not by filing for divorce, but by having her killed, according to prosecutors.
Jones was arrested Jan. 1 and charged with solicitation to commit murder after authorities said he attempted to hire an undercover police officer to kill his wife, Michelle. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said his plotting began at least eight months before the meeting that led to his arrest.
"Thank goodness he went to the wrong person," Wilson said. "Had it been a real gangster or real bad guy, we'd have a murder on our hands."
Those details surfaced during a bond hearing for Jones, 41, Thursday morning in Charleston. His attorney, Leon Stavrinakis requested bail be set, in order to get Jones out of jail to await trial.
Stravinakis told Circuit Judge Thomas Hughston, who took the bail matter under advisement, that Jones is not getting the adequate care from the jail needed for his treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, depression disorder and fibromylagia. Jones has been dealing with mental and emotional effects of the Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine firefighters in 2007, according to Stravinakis. "He went through a very traumatic and difficult experience as a result of that tragedy," Stravinakis said.
Jones suffers from flashbacks, nervousness and claustrophobia, according to Stravinakis. He had been taking about seven medications for his conditions and biweekly psychiatric care, but since his incarceration, he's been receiving two medications on a reduced dosage, Stravinakis said.
"Jail simply is not treating his mental issues," he said. "Being confined in a tight area is difficult for him because of the conditions he suffers with his PTSD." Wilson said his medical condition is not a reason to let him out of jail.
"We have defendants all the time who have medical conditions," she said.
Wilson also questioned Jones' condition. "Maybe some of this is not genuine. That's something we'll look into," she told the judge.
Jones had been talking with another person about his plan as early as a week before his foiled attempt to hire the undercover officer, according to Wilson.
Another witness told investigators during the spring of 2013, Jones had mentioned the desire to "knock off his wife," and talking about the location it could occur, Wilson said.
During the meeting with the undercover officer, Jones provided two photos for the undercover hitman could chose from, Wilson told the judge.
"He was very meticulously describing his wife," Wilson said in court. "Despite whatever injury or lingering problems this defendant has from the Sofa Super Store fire, he's certainly able to plan and do the things he needs to do to carry out a pretty terrible crime." Wilson said Jones is either rational or unstable, either of which she said makes him a danger to the community, which is why she asked the judge to deny setting bail and keep Jones behind bars while he awaits trial. Stravinakis said it would be "ridiculous" for bail not to be set for Jones, who has no criminal record and who has served his community.
"The sacrifices he's made for the community in the line of duty shows he's the opposite of a danger to the community," Stravinakis said.
Hughston said he expects to make a decision on whether to set bail in a few days.
Jones denies the allegations against him. On Dec. 31, Jones met with the undercover officer and discussed the plan to kill his wife, according to court records.
The officer, who is not being identified, recorded Jones saying he wanted his wife killed on New Year's Day while she was working, according to the affidavit. He told the officer that the ammunition to be used was already "cleaned" and to make sure and "finish off" his wife because he didn't want to visit her in a hospital, the affidavit stated.
They discussed a payment of $8,000 for the killing, and Jones provided a photo of his wife, the affidavit stated.
Jones, a father of four, served on the Charleston Fire Department for 19 years.
If released on bail, Stravinakis told the judge Jones would live with his mother.
If convicted, Jones faces the potential of serving up to 10 years in prison.
Michelle Jones has filed for separation, temporary custody of their children and a request to receive her husband's retirement benefits, according to court records.
She's also asking the court for a restraining order, although the current bail conditions already restrict him from contacting her or their children.
During the bond hearing, Michelle Jones told the judge PTSD and his medication has nothing to do with this.
"Someone who wanted to commit murder should not be allowed to walk the streets," she said. "I'm scared he'll get out and kill me."
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.