Three family members face charges in slaying of Ridgeville man
Sonny Ray Jones Jr. was supposed to be showering when gunfire rang out early this month behind his house near Ridgeville, family members said.
His stepfather and mother still heard the pattering of water as they stepped into the backyard and saw Jones’ stepgrandfather dead Feb. 1. The man’s killer was gone, they thought.
That’s the story that Jones’ stepfather told The Post and Courier Tuesday morning, hours after Jones was arrested on charges of shooting Jimmy C. Edwards, 64, three times in the back of the head.
Endsley Grooms and his wife, Mary Grooms, said they were “stunned” by the revelation. They said they thought Edwards had been slain by a shadowy figure as he checked on his chickens in a backyard coop. They knew nothing that would have implicated Jones, they said.
But by the day’s end they were in jail too. Now all three face murder charges.
“He came down the hall buck naked after we found his granddaddy,” Endsley Grooms said before his arrest. “We thought he was in the shower, but apparently he wasn’t. He just had the shower running.”
Jones, 37, was jailed Monday night and denied bail Tuesday on charges of murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during a violent crime. His mother, 54, and stepfather, 67, face only the murder count.
Endsley Grooms is the only one of the trio who has been arrested in the past; he faced an aggravated assault and battery charge in 1971.
Arrest affidavits stated that Jones snuck up behind Edwards, shot him in the head with a .25-caliber handgun, then took $44 from his pocket and a checkbook from his pickup truck.
Jones said during his bond hearing Tuesday that he is unemployed and collecting disability benefits.
The documents did not detail the Groomses’ alleged involvement. They are expected to appear during a bond hearing today.
Chief Deputy Sam Richardson of the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office declined to say more about the case until that court proceeding.
For 12 years, Edwards and the three lived together at 374 Ridge Road.
Jones and Edwards argued at times, but the rest of the family stayed out of their way, Endsley Grooms said.
Grooms said his stepson was still in love with his former wife, which depressed him.
“(Edwards) told Sonny he needs to find a girlfriend and get out of the house because he’s 37 years old,” Grooms said. “But when they talked, I got out of the way. I didn’t really know what was going on between them.”
The couple first gave their version events to the newspaper days after the slaying. They added a few details Tuesday.
Grooms said he and his wife were lying in bed watching wrestling and the CBS show “NCIS” when he heard Edwards’ pickup pull into the yard around 11 p.m. on Feb. 1.
The retiree had just returned from an auction in Eutaw Springs; he was an aspiring auctioneer.
Grooms said he soon heard two bangs, which he thought were firecrackers. When Edwards didn’t come inside, Grooms said he went outside to check on Edwards, who was Mary Grooms’ stepfather.
Edwards was found bleeding from the head. He was dead.
Grooms thought that Jones had gotten into the shower about 20 minutes earlier, he said. When he saw Jones naked after making the gruesome discovery, Grooms said he had no reason to doubt his assumption.
In the following days, Grooms said deputies kicked in his bedroom door. They took his 9 mm pistol and a few magazines to a .45-caliber handgun he had sold years ago.
The gun Grooms said was used in the slaying was a .25-caliber pistol he had been given years ago. Grooms said he had forgotten about the firearm and couldn’t recall its make.
“It’s hard to answer questions because I don’t know what to say,” Grooms said. “My wife is really hurt. I don’t know if there was a robbery. If he got any money, I didn’t see it.”
Though Jones had never before been jailed, he had run-ins with law enforcement and a history of problems with family members.
In May 2007, his brother, Kelvin Jones, showed up at the Ridge Road house and accused him of cashing one of his checks. Kelvin Jones was drunk and started a “physical dispute” with his brother and Edwards, according to an incident report.
Kelvin Jones left when Edwards went to retrieve a gun, according to the report.
Sonny Jones’ own problems developed during the decade he has lived in Edwards’ house, according to Grooms.
Jones’ son died in a car wreck, which resulted in a wrongful-death lawsuit that was settled in 2004, according to court records. Grooms said Jones also has a daughter.
“He’s depressed, and he’s got mental issues,” Grooms said about his stepson. “I think he still loves his first wife.”
Grooms’ wife said she was taken aback by her son’s arrest, which prompted her sugar levels to shoot up. Citing her diabetes, she said she could not comment further on the case.
Her husband had been critical of deputies for repeatedly questioning family members about the killing and for the damage he said they caused while searching the house.
“But they had to do their job,” Grooms said. “And I told them the truth about what happened.”Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.