Parents of murdered man criticize police investigation
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2013 6:56PM
Venus Hampton of Chicago and Larry Jones of Waukegan discuss the handling of their son's murder by the Gary, Indiana, police before a TV news crew on Thursday, Sept. 5.| Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media
Chezevon Jones death investigation
July 2, 2012: Chezevon Jones goes missing.
July 5, 2012: The 2002 Cadillac he was driving is found by his father in a burned-out garage in Gary, Ind.
Aug. 1, 2012: An unidentified body is discovered in an abandoned area of Gary.
July 29, 2012: Jones’ family learns positive ID has been made on the body.
Aug. 21, 2013: Family learns cause of death: blunt trauma to the head.
Sept. 5, 2013: Family informed it can pick up ashes from Chicago funeral home, but still no death certificate issued.
Updated: November 5, 2013 3:18AM
The parents of murder victim Chezevon Jones waited 13 agonizing months to learn that the badly decomposed body discovered near abandoned railroad tracks in Gary, Ind., was their son.
Larry Jones of Waukegan, the victim’s father, and Venus Hampton of Chicago, his mother, say the case — both the murder investigation and the identification of the remains — has been bungled from the beginning by Gary police and the Lake County Indiana Coroner’s Office. Jones cites little communication between the departments, alleging a six-month-long blackout after the body was found Aug. 2, 2012.
“We want to make them pay for the help they didn’t give us, the suffering they put us through,” Larry Jones, 57, said in an interview.
Authorities responded that some cases are difficult to solve.
The 30-year-old victim was the father of three young girls and was engaged to be married. He disappeared the evening of July 2, 2012, after leaving The Hook Up, the clothing store in Gary where he worked for more than two years. He had planned to visit his mother for her birthday.
A surveillance video shows him talking on his cellphone and interacting with coworkers outside the store before driving away in his cream-colored 2002 Cadillac DeVille accompanied by two men, including Markeith Cook, who hasn’t been seen since.
It was Larry Jones who discovered his son’s charred vehicle July 6 in the remnants of a burned garage near the Grand Calumet River on Gary’s east side. The fire had been extinguished by the Gary Fire Department hours after his son left the store.
Jones claims police had no knowledge of the burned-up car until he led them to it. Keys to the car would turn up near the body, found by a scrapper. Jones said Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram refused requests for in-person meetings and didn’t return phone calls. No arrest has been made in the case.
Gary Police Cpl. Gabrielle King, the department’s spokesperson, said the murder investigation continues, that the surveillance video is being held in evidence and that an investigator has been playing phone tag with Hampton.
“People watch television and think murders can be solved in an hour,” King said. “But you can’t make people come forward. A lot of time in homicides people don’t come forward because they’re afraid or they use street justice; they take care of it themselves.”
King also defended Ingram.
“I know the chief well enough to know if they reached out to him, he responded,” she said.
Hampton gave a DNA swab the day the body was found but she was not notified a positive identification had been made until a year later, July 29. In a meeting a month later with the coroner in Crown Point, she and Jones learned their son died of blunt trauma to the right side of his head.
A source who has knowledge of the investigation said the coroner’s office never received the state police forensics report on the body, which should have been forwarded by Gary police.
“It was a cold case,” said the investigator, who asked not to be identified because he doesn’t have permission to speak publicly. “We never had a name. The bones were a John Doe. We knew it was a male of African American descent. But there was a tentative ID because of the car found near the deceased at the time of investigation. It was up to Gary to get the ball rolling.”
Hampton and Jones are still waiting for the death certificate. According to the investigator, the certificate, which still hadn’t been received by the Chicago funeral home now holding Jones’ remains, must be handwritten because the death occurred more than a year ago.
Hampton said she plans to pick up her son’s ashes on Saturday, Sept. 7. A memorial service will be held Sept. 21.
But Jones said he’s not ready to forget the way his son’s death was handled.
“We want justice and we want to lay our son to rest,” Jones said. “We want the public to see all the pain we’re going through and that we’ve been unable to get help.”