Detective: Jahi Turner's stepfather 'animated' and 'very distracted' after boy disappeared in 2002

Posted at 4:54 AM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 19:51:39-05

SAN DIEGO - A man charged in the disappearance and murder of his stepson in 2002 seemed "animated" and was "foaming at the mouth" when approached shortly after calling 911 to report the child missing near a playground at the southern end of Balboa Park, a San Diego police detective testified Monday.

Detective Lisa Davies testified as a preliminary hearing got underway for Tieray Jones, who was arrested in North Carolina in April and charged in the death of 2-year-old Jahi Turner.

Davies said Jones told her that he went to get the child a juice from a vending machine in the 28th Street park the afternoon of April 25, 2002, and left Jahi at some play equipment with other children and a woman.

Jones, 38, told police that nobody was at the play area when he returned.

Davies testified that when she contacted Jones, he seemed very distracted about a bank card he may have lost at the park. The detective said she looked at a journal during a search of the apartment where the Jones family lived, which detailed financial problems.

Tameka Jones, who was 18 and in the Navy, said the defendant called her on April 25, 2002, to say her son was missing.

Another witness testified that she was home for lunch at the apartment complex where the defendant and Tameka Jones lived, and saw the defendant walking alone. Police said no one saw Jahi that day.

Retired San Diego Police Detective Robert Donaldson testified that he interviewed a woman at the time who saw the defendant taking a bag of trash away from his car.

According to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant, Jahi's blood was found on a "onesie" in a laundry basket. An Elmo blanket, which was recovered from a bed, also had the child's blood on it, according to the declaration.

The defendant is charged with murder and child abuse in Jahi's death. The toddler's body has never been found.

The boy's disappearance prompted weeks of intensive searches of canyons, fields and neighborhoods in the area, as well as a grueling weeklong sweep of the Miramar Landfill.

The efforts turned up no evidence regarding what had become of Jahi, who soon was considered a probable homicide victim.

Seven months after the child vanished, Jones was arrested by a bounty hunter in San Diego and taken to Maryland to face unrelated drug charges. He was convicted of trespassing, possession of a controlled substance, and assault in 2006, which resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.

Jones' preliminary hearing continues Tuesday and testimony is expected to continue all week. At the end of the hearing, Judge Charles Rogers will determine whether enough evidence was presented for the defendant to stand trial.

The defendant faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.