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Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Lawrence Jones Murder Case

     Early in 2012, 70-year-old Lawrence Jones and his 29-year-old wife, Norife "Janie" Herrera, separated. The couple had resided in a two-story beachfront house on Spray Avenue in Monterey, California.

     Lawrence Jones, an internationally recognized expert in the field of financial management, worked as a consultant for the Asian Development Bank and taught at the Naval Postgraduate School. He was also a visiting scholar at universities around the world.

     Although Mr. Jones held a prestigious professorship, and was renowned in his profession, he had a history of crime that included arrests for attempted murder, domestic violence, and the assault of a police officer.

     Norfie Herrera, Jones' estranged wife, had earned a Master's Degree from a university in Singapore. She formerly resided in the Philippines. After separating from her husband, Herrera took up residence in San Jose, California.

     On July 12, 2012, Mr. Jones' son, Cameron Jones, called the Monterey Police Department and asked officers to check on his father. According to Norife Herrera, her estranged husband had threatened to slit his wrists over their upcoming divorce. (Apparently nothing came of this police inquiry.)

     On September 4, 2012, Herrera was reported missing after she failed to show up for work at her Zoom Vision job in Milpitas, California. Police officers questioned Lawrence Jones who said he had last seen her earlier that day.

     On September 7, 2012, a worker with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, along Cannon Road in a remote section of San Benita County near Aromas, California, reported finding what he described as pieces of a mannequin inside trash bags. As it turned out, the bags contained the head, arms, legs, and the torso of a woman. A forensic pathologist in Monterey County identified the dismembered remains as Norife Herrera. (One point of identification involved the lot number on the victim's breast implants.)

     On September 13, 2012, police officers and FBI agents tracked Lawrence Jones to a Los Angeles hotel near the airport. Jones had scheduled a flight to Rio de Janiero, Brazil. He was booked into the Monterey County Jail on the charge of first-degree murder.

     Police officers, on September 14, 2012, conducted a crime scene investigation at Jones' house in Monterey. The officers found blood stains throughout the dwelling as well as bloody towels, bloody garments in the clothes washer, and a bloodied handsaw and ax. In the garage, the crime scene investigators found a blue tarp stained in blood, and pieces of yellow rope similar to the cordage found at the Aromas dump site. In the dishwasher, searchers found a carving knife. Also, the fireplace contained debris from burnt pieces of clothing. Police officers left the searched dwelling that day with several computers and the murder suspect's Nissan Maxima.

     On October 21, 2014, Lawrence Jones, with his attorney Paul Metzer, appeared in a Monterey courtroom for the purpose of changing his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity. Superior Court Judge Julie Culver said she would appoint two experts to evaluate Jones' mental state. (Both experts found Jones legally sane.)

     Lawrence Jones, on March 31, 2016, pleaded guilty to murdering his ex-wife and dismembering her body for disposal at the dump site in San Benito County. According to the Monterey County prosecutor in charge of the case, the defendant, in a manic rage, had struck the victim in the head with a blunt object on August 30, 2012, the day their divorce became final. The blow didn't kill Herrera but did render her unconscious. On September 5, 2012, Jones shot his still unconscious ex-wife in the head and lower torso with a 12-guage shotgun.

     The prosecutor, pursuant to his courtroom presentation, described how Jones had used a handsaw and an ax to dismember the victim. The defendant packed trash bags with his ex-wife's body parts, put the bags into the trunk of her Honda Civic, and drove to the disposal site in Aromas.

     Judge Marla Anderson sentenced the 74-year-old Lawrence Jones to 50 years in prison. 

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