Prosecutor: Returning killer to search for girls' bodies could take time

Saturday, November 5th 2005, 4:05 pm
By: News On 6

VINITA, Okla. (AP) _ It could take some time before a convicted killer is returned to Oklahoma to help search for the bodies of two Welch teenagers who have been missing since 1999, a Craig County prosecutor said.

Gene Haynes, who is district attorney for Craig, Mayes and Rogers counties, said Thursday that transferring Jeremy Bryan Jones from Alabama, where he was found guilty of murder, to Oklahoma could involve jurisdictions in as many as five states, where he's suspected in other crimes.

``It's going to look a lot different to you if you're on the ground,'' said Haynes, alluding to an unsuccessful search for the bodies of 16-year-olds Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman in June in Galena, Kan.

That three-day search of a former mining area was based on Jones' admission to authorities in January that he killed Danny and Kathy Freeman in December 1999 and set fire to their Welch mobile home. He also said he posed as a rescuer to the two girls, then shot them after driving them to Kansas.

Originally, Jones was supplied satellite maps to assist authorities on where to look for the remains, Haynes said.

``When he was (allegedly) there, it was the middle of the night,'' Haynes said. ``He had probably been using drugs.

``It's very possible that if he was physically driven out to that area, he might pick out a location completely different than what he picked up on the maps.''

Haynes told the Tulsa World he plans to contact the Attorney General's Office in Alabama and fellow Oklahoma prosecutor Eddie Wyant, district attorney for Delaware and Ottawa counties, about how to proceed.

A jury last week convicted Jones, 32, of first-degree murder in the September 2004 death of Lisa Marie Nichols of Turnerville, Ala.

Jones, of Miami, Okla., faces first-degree murder counts in Georgia and Louisiana, but hasn't been charged with a crime in Craig County or Kansas, where he could be transported to search for the teens' bodies, Haynes said.

``I could see a scenario that if those states want him, and all we have is a sexual assault from Ottawa County, I could see us getting in the back of the line,'' he said.

``But that's something that we're going to pursue. He's our best suspect and that's the best chance of finding the girls, by possibly bringing him to the site so he could point it out himself.''

Duane Vancil, brother of Danny Freeman, said he regards Jones as a less-than-credible confessor, although he may have played a role in helping dispose of the girls' bodies.

Jones was arrested at 4 a.m. in Miami, Okla., the day the Freemans were killed and the girls disappeared. That fact casts doubt on how he could have committed the murders and abductions alone, Vancil told the Joplin Globe.

``I mean, the guys no dummy, but he is a pathological liar,'' Vancil said.

Jones also is a suspect in the Feb. 21, 1996, deaths of David Oakley, 38, and Doris Harris, 41, in Afton, Okla., and Picher's Justin Dee Hutchings, 19, on Sept. 11, 1999.

Oakley and Harris died of gunshot wounds to the head, and their deaths were homicides, said a spokesman with the Oklahoma state Medical Examiner's Office. Hutchings, whose manner of death is listed as unknown, died of the toxic effects of methampetamine, the spokesman said.

No new information was revealed Wednesday about the Oklahoma cases, but Jones remains a ``very definite suspect'' in the Freeman deaths and the missing teens, Haynes said.

``I believe that he did it,'' the prosecutor said. ``... There's a very good possibility that he's given us some good information.''

Any return of Jones to Oklahoma probably would involve an extradition to Ottawa County and a governor's agreement among states where he has pending charges.