After more than five years of delays caused by the pandemic and the defendant’s mental health, a Petersburg man was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to murdering his girlfriend and kidnapping and murder of a town pastor’s wife in a 2017 felony carnage.
Kristopher T. Jones, 37, was found guilty in Petersburg Circuit Court after pleading to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of robbery and one count each of carjacking , grand theft and escape from the police for a series of violent events that took place on the morning of January 18, 2017.
Circuit Judge Joseph M. Teefey Jr. convicted Jones after accepting his pleas and sentenced him to two life terms plus 65 years with 50 years suspended, giving him two life terms plus 15 years to serve. The punishment was consistent with a plea agreement.
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The case was first delayed after Jones, who has a long history of psychiatric problems, was ruled incompetent to stand trial in March 2018 after being examined by mental health professionals. Efforts were then launched to restore his jurisdiction, “and it ended up taking a long time,” said Petersburg Commonwealth attorney Tiffany Buckner, who prosecuted the case.
But once Jones regained his skills, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and that caused a further delay “because we couldn’t have a jury trial during that time,” Buckner said. The General Assembly then abolished capital punishment in Virginia in early 2021 and this created an additional wrinkle in the case as Jones was initially charged with capital murder. A jury trial was due to begin on Monday, but an agreement between the prosecution and defense was later reached, leading to Thursday’s plea hearing.
The events leading up to the two murders began with the abduction and carjacking of then-82-year-old Petersburg pastor Alfred Woodard from his home in the 200 block of South Jefferson Street, according to police and the summary of the prosecution’s evidence presented in court on Thursday. .
Jones appeared at the Woodard home around 9:30 a.m. He told Alfred Woodard that he had come to rob it and had taken $100 from the pastor’s wallet along with his bank cards. Jones also indicated that he killed his girlfriend.
Jones then forced the pastor into his own vehicle, a BMW, and ordered him to an ATM in Dinwiddie County, but the machine would not dispense cash.
Jones then ordered Woodard to the Bank of America in the 1900 block of South Crater Road in Petersburg, where instead of withdrawing cash, Woodard alerted a teller he was being robbed .
Jones, wearing a white T-shirt with the word “Jesus”, then drove off without him in Woodard’s BMW.
A Petersburg officer spotted the speeding BMW but lost sight of the vehicle as it entered Dinwiddie. The car, driven by Jones, returned to Petersburg shortly thereafter, and an officer and detective pursued it. At one point Jones went over 100 mph and a detective in pursuit lost track of the car.
As officers investigated the carjacking, they drove to the Woodards’ home and discovered that Minnie Woodard was missing. Investigators found traces of blood on the floor, walls and carpet, as well as a large pool of blood at the foot of a bed and a bent steak knife with blood residue.
A day later, police discovered the body of a woman – later identified as Minnie Woodard – in a secluded area behind a vacant residence at 8319 River Road in Chesterfield County, where Jones had previously done work.
The state medical examiner’s office determined that she died from acute, blunt-force injuries to her head and neck.
The investigation took another turn after Petersburg police on the evening of Jan. 18, 2017, found the body of Janice Celeste Lugo, 52, dead in her apartment at 203 South Jefferson St., about a block of houses from the Woodards house. She had been asphyxiated.
Authorities determined that Jones and the Woodards were acquaintances, but not necessarily friends, through the housework and home renovation work the couple paid Jones to occasionally perform for them. Because the Woodards were of advanced age, Jones became their handyman.
Jones had lived in various places, and his last known address before the murders was the 200 block of South Jefferson Street – the same block as the Woodards. He was arrested by the US Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force on the morning of January 19, 2017, in the parking lot of a Lowe’s store in Norfolk, where he has family.
The Marshals recovered Alfred Woodard’s BMW when they arrested Jones.
After his arrest, Jones admitted in an interview with Petersburg police that he had gone to the Woodards’ house to rob them and that he believed they had money and were wealthy. He told Minnie Woodard he didn’t mean to hurt her but that he killed his girlfriend, who he had issues with, according to his statement to police.
Jones later confessed to punching and stabbing Minnie Woodard, forcing her husband into the bank, escaping Petersburg police and leaving his body at the vacant Chesterfield property.
Alfred and Minnie Woodard, who were pastor and first lady of Mount Sinai Christian Church in Petersburg, had been married for 56 years.
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Jones had been convicted of two crimes in Petersburg more than a dozen years before the 2017 criminal rampage.
He pleaded guilty in 2004 to breaking into Westview Elementary School in Petersburg with another teenager, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but three months suspended. That same year, he pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding for assaulting a teenager. He was sentenced to five years in prison, four of which were suspended.
In court papers filed during the assault, a clinical social worker noted that Jones had “a long history of psychiatric issues,” described his mental health issues, and noted that he was prescribed psychotropic drugs at the time. ‘adolescence.