MELBOURNE, Fla. – Already facing a two death sentences, Henry Lee Jones took his fate into his own hands in a trial for the killing of a 19-year-old in 2003 at a motel in Melbourne.
A jury found Jones, 50, guilty of the first-degree premeditated murder of Carlos Perez on Tuesday afternoon. Jones was convicted of murder twice in connection to a 2003 double-homicide in Tennessee, and his Brevard County conviction exposes him to a possible third death sentence, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.
Prosecutors say they consider Jones a serial killer based on the Florida Supreme Court definition — somebody who has killed three or more people. They also believe he was involved in a fourth killing in 2002 in Broward County. Though he hasn't been charged with that crime, prosecutors used evidence from that slaying to illustrate Jones' signature killing style — tie them up, choke them, cut their throat.
After the guilty verdict was read at the Titusville Courthouse, Jones appeared unfazed and even smiled.
Carlos' father wiped tears from his eyes. "People say time heals," William Perez said. "It doesn't. I miss him as much today as when he went missing."
William said Carlos grew up in Coral Springs. He loved golf, using tools and building things. He liked to follow his grandfather around the garage and eventually had his own toolbox. He loved Elvis Presley and collected memorabilia: an Elvis phone, clock, movie, music.
"He collected it all," his father said. "I still hold onto those."
His father thinks he even looked like the King of Rock and Roll.
Last week, they saw Carlos' autopsy photos for the first time.
"It is the most devastating experience to see your child laying on a table in a morgue with his throat slashed, almost severing his head," his father said, adding "Those images will never leave my mind."
From the beginning of the trial to the end, Jones said he had nothing to do with Carlos' death. He stressed to jurors they should ignore evidence from outside Brevard County and pay attention to dates and times.
"I'm not guilty of killing Carlos Perez," Jones said in his opening statements. "But I hope that we do find out what happened to him."
Assistant State Attorney Laura Moody guided the jury through the state's theory of Carlos' death on Tuesday. They believe the two men met at a day labor agency in Fort Lauderdale. They said Jones needed a second driver to help get rid of a Dodge Aries used in the Tennessee murders.
Prosecutors don't know why Carlos ended up in a Super 8 motel room in Melbourne. Police found Carlos naked on a bed in room 217, strangled and with his throat cut. Prosecutors said the scene had been cleaned before police arrived, but there was a hair that was similar to Jones left at the scene. In the car Jones was arrested with, police found a pair of shoes that matched a shoeprint left in the bathroom of the motel and a Puerto Rican flag that was similar to a flag Carlos' father had given him.
The 12-person jury had to vote unanimously to convict Jones.
Assistant State Attorney Laura Moody compared Jones to lightning.
"The most important thing this defendant has in common with lightning is that he is deadly and he is shocking when he kills."
William Perez urged parents to pay close attention to their children and know their friends.
"I've blamed myself many, many times for not keeping him closer to me; not keeping a closer eye on him."