Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Police: Pinellas Trail murder suspect's story kept changing

CLEARWATER — A teenager accused of robbing and killing a 41-year-old woman along the Pinellas Trail last week told detectives a series of stories to explain why the victim's wallet turned up inside his home, according to court records released Wednesday.

Before Dewayne Xavier Jones, 18, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge Tuesday, he was questioned by two detectives at Clearwater police headquarters Sunday night, a day after Lydia Ann Tross was found in a ditch north of Fairmont Street.

Jones told them he found Tross' wallet on the trail, picked it up and took it home, about a mile away on Betty Lane. He denied seeing Tross' body, records show.

On Monday, detectives conducted a second interview with Jones, who told them a different story. The teen said he had seen the body, but didn't know why she was dead. He sifted through her purse and removed the wallet.

"Jones' chain of events continued to evolve," wrote Detective Christopher Lyons in court records.

In a third version, Jones admitted he was involved, along with a friend named "CJ," documents showed. Jones told detectives he and CJ concocted a plan to rob someone on the trail: CJ would assault the victim and Jones would steal their belongings.

The pair saw Tross at about dusk Aug. 5, Jones told detectives. Then CJ punched her and removed her purse, which he handed to Jones.

Records do not indicate how Tross was assaulted, but records show detectives searched Jones' house for any "sharp knifelike objects." They recovered several items, including three knives and black Adidas sneakers.

Police linked Jones to Tross' slaying after a relative who lives in his house found a wallet inside a drawer in a room used by Jones. The relative showed it to another family member, who Googled the name on the license and realized it belonged to Tross, according to records.

Jones, along with a family member, turned in the wallet and license to the Sheriff's Office station in Dunedin, and deputies called Clearwater police. Jones remained Wednesday at the Pinellas County Jail without bail.

Times staff writer Claire Wiseman contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.

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