King County prosecutors on Tuesday charged an incarcerated man in the 1994 shooting deaths of a woman and her young son, whose cold-case murder investigation slipped through the cracks and was ignored for years despite promising DNA evidence that linked the suspected killer to their slayings.
Jerome F. Jones, 51, now serving a 56-year prison sentence for killing a man in California in 1995, has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder for the homicides of Stacy Falcon-Dewey, 23, and Jacob Dewey, 3. Their bodies were found next to Falcon-Dewey’s car on a secluded dead-end road in Renton in 1994.
Jones “bound Stacy Falcon-Dewey, beat her, orally raped her and likely shot her child to death in front of her before killing her,” according to the charging papers filed by Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jessica Berliner. “The extraordinary violence and cruelty of these murders demonstrates the extreme danger he presents to society.”
Jones, who will be extradited to Washington, is set to be arraigned Feb. 28 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
During Falcon-Dewey’s autopsy, oral swabs and fingernail clippings captured DNA from an unknown man. That evidence was preserved, and after advances in DNA science, was positively matched to Jones in 2002, charging papers say.
Still, even after that genetic evidence linked Jones to the homicides, and the lead Renton cold-case detective presented it and other evidence to prosecutors for charges, the case languished for years amid delays, budget cuts and other procedural hiccups.
The case became the subject of a 2019 Seattle Times series, “In the Dark,” which detailed how, despite seeming to be solved, it instead was neglected for years. All the while, Vianne Falcon — the mother and grandmother of the victims — was never informed of the DNA link to Jones.
Falcon, now 74, who had spent years pressing authorities for answers about the case, first learned about Jones and his link to the crime scene when The Times examined the case in 2019.
On Tuesday, Falcon expressed relief at the charges against Jones.
“It’s about time. That’s what I want to say about it,” she said during a phone interview, noting that Jones had been seeking early parole.
“I’m really, really happy that they’re filing these charges before he had a chance to get released,” Falcon said. “Because if he got released, they never would’ve caught up with him.”
Since The Times’ series was published, Falcon has pressed prosecutors and police about the investigation and launched a letter-writing campaign to try to draw more attention to the case.
A probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges Tuesday indicates that investigators have reexamined some evidence and submitted items for further forensic testing and to confirm more links to Jones.
“ln December of 2021, investigators learned that semen was detected on the sleeve of the jacket worn by Jacob Dewey at the time of his murder,” according to the affidavit of Renton police Detective Tracie Jarratt.
From that, a DNA profile was developed and linked to Jones. The DNA recovered is “3.6 nonillion times” more likely to originate from Jones “than an unrelated individual selected at random from the U.S. population,” the affidavit states.
Since 1999, Jones has been serving a prison sentence for the 1995 murder of Gregory Hebdon, an Irvine, California, businessman and father of two young children.
Once known as “Roam Dog,” Jones has a long rap sheet steeped in gangs, drugs and violence dating back to his teenage years. He grew up near Compton and ran with the Crips street gang during the crack-cocaine explosion of the 1980s, garnering felony convictions and prison terms for separate incidents of attempted robbery and robbery.
His first conviction in Washington — for crack possession — came just after Christmas 1993. After Stacy Falcon-Dewey and Jacob Dewey were killed 10 months later, Jones returned to California, where he murdered Hebdon in March 1995, the charging papers say.
“After that crime, Mr. Jones fled back to the Seattle area, where he was later arrested and held at the King County Jail,” according to charging papers. “While in custody, the defendant brutally assaulted a corrections officer.”
Jones was convicted of second-degree assault and served time in a Washington prison before being extradited to California, where he was convicted of Hebdon’s murder.
He’s now being held at the Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, with an earliest possible parole date listed as March 2030, according to the California corrections website.
For the first several years after the Renton slayings, the case was a true whodunit. Detectives pursued a number of promising suspects and leads that never panned out. Jones had not even been on their radar as a potential suspect in the early years after the killings.
After the big break in the case linking Jones to the crime scene, Renton cold-case Detective Rick Cross and Senior King County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Baird traveled to California to interview Jones in prison. They showed Jones a photo of Stacy Falcon-Dewey, and he repeatedly denied knowing her.
Cross later followed up by interviewing people who confirmed that Jones had lived in 1993 and 1994 at the Kenton Ridge apartment complex, where Stacy Falcon-Dewey was last seen alive picking up her son from a babysitter. In April 2004, Cross submitted the case for a charging decision.
“Everything had been done,” Cross, since retired, said during a 2019 interview. “It was pretty much gift-wrapped.”
Before filing charges, prosecutors requested a crime scene reconstruction from the state crime lab. In a July 2004 email, Baird noted to forensic scientist Kim Duddy that the crime lab already had helped identify a suspect through a DNA match.
“This suspect is in custody and is not presently a danger to the public,” Baird wrote. “I would prefer to determine the appropriate charges in this case after you have had an opportunity to interpret the entire crime scene.”
But for whatever reason, Baird’s request slipped through the cracks for nearly 2½ years before Duddy noticed the request again and queried prosecutors about it.
“I truly do apologize for not having be able to get to this request yet (embarrassingly I just can’t seem to dig myself out from so many requests) and am wanting to know if the work still needs to be done. I expect that it does,” the scientist emailed Baird in 2007.
By then, the case had been re-assigned to a different prosecutor. Months passed before prosecutors, forensic scientists and detectives finally met to revisit the case’s details. Soon after, budget cuts eliminated the prosecutors’ cold-case unit and the case again was left to languish for years.
Acting on a tip in late 2018, The Seattle Times filed a public records request for records related to the case and obtained forensic reports that showed a DNA match to Jones had been made 16 years earlier.
But Falcon-Dewey’s family was never told about the evidence, and Jones had never been charged. Until Tuesday.
“If convicted of these charges, Mr. Jones will be required to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Tuesday’s charging papers say.
Her voice trembling, Vianne Falcon said shortly after the charges were filed Tuesday that she’s finally found some relief.
“My kids, they’re finally going to get justice,” she said. “It’s ridiculous it took this long. It’s because of [“In the Dark”] that I finally got results. I am 100% positive I would’ve never known about the DNA match. I would’ve been left in the dark until the day I died.”