Retired Charleston Fire Department captain Edward Clinton Jones will remain locked up at Cannon Detention Center after his wife tearfully urged a judge to consider the fear her family has lived in since learning of his alleged plot to have her killed.
The couple appeared in court on Tuesday for a federal detention hearing, nearly a week after Jones, 41, of West Ashley, was indicted on charges of solicitation to commit murder-for-hire and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.
Jones was previously arrested on a state charge of solicitation to commit murder after authorities said he attempted to hire an undercover police officer to kill his wife Michelle on Dec. 31. State prosecutors chose not to pursue that count in light of the federal charges, which would likely carry more prison time.
Jones retired from a 19-year career with the Charleston Fire Department following the June 2007 Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine of his fellow firefighters. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and emotional effects since the deadly blaze, according to his attorney, Leon Stavrinakis.
Dressed in a jail jumpsuit, Jones indicated during the hearing that he wanted a chance to address the court on his own behalf. He was ultimately swayed to remain quiet, however, and let Stavrinakis speak for him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams argued in favor of Jones being kept behind bars for allegedly violating prior court orders that he refrain from contacting his estranged wife and their three minor children. The couple's adult daughter had opted out of that order, choosing instead to maintain communication with her father.
Williams said Jones had repeatedly texted his younger children and called his wife threatening to kill her and them if she didn't talk to him.
Jones also asked his church's pastor to reach out to Michelle to see if she would be willing to sign up for marriage counseling, Williams said.
Stavrinakis said he was astonished that the prosecution would try to use Jones' private conversations with his spiritual leader against him. He referred to the accusation as a "desperate attempt to keep this man from having bail."
Stavrinakis acknowledged that there had been some contact between Jones and his family in the months since the alleged murder-for-hire plot came to light. But that contact went both ways, Stavrinakis said, considering Michelle had used the children to send Jones gifts.
Stavrinakis argued that if Jones had violated any court orders the state would have immediately requested that his bail be revoked, which never occurred. Instead, prosecutors waited until Jones was federally indicted to have him taken into custody, indicating that he wasn't an imminent threat to the community, Stavrinakis said.
In tears, Michelle Jones told the judge she was constantly in fear for her life and the life of her children.
"I feel my entire marriage has been a lie," Michelle said. "There are no excuses why someone would do this. ... It's very sad that a man's greed would devastate an entire family."
Jones' adult daughter and other family members attended the hearing to support him, though the group appeared frustrated at not being given an opportunity to speak. Jones' daughter burst into tears after the judge ordered that her father remain in jail.
In an interview after the hearing, Stavrinakis said that his client continues to maintain his innocence and that he will continue to pursue other options for bail moving forward.
Jones was recorded by police trying to hire an undercover officer and telling him he wanted his wife killed on Jan. 1 where she worked on Ashley Crossing Drive, according to an arrest affidavit.
He told the undercover officer he wanted to be sure she was finished off because he didn't want to visit her in the 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.
A witness also told police Jones had said he would use insurance money as payment for the murder.
The week before Jones allegedly tried hiring someone to have his wife killed, he called their insurance company to increase the payout, according to court records.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.