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Witnesses: Jahi Turner not seen at park on day toddler was reported missing

SAN DIEGO -- A woman who was at a Golden Hill park at the same time a man reported his 2-year-old stepson missing in 2002 testified Tuesday that she never saw the child that day.

Erika Cahoe-Fitzgerald testified during the second day of a preliminary hearing for 38-year-old Tieray Jones, who is charged with murder in the disappearance of Jahi Turner. The child's body has never been found.

Jones was arrested in North Carolina in April and was brought to San Diego to face charges.

Cahoe-Fitzgerald said she was studying in 28th Street park near a bathroom and some vending machines -- where Jones said he went to get Jahi some juice the afternoon of April 25, 2002 -- but didn't see any children in the area.

The witness said she saw Jones talking with police officers as she left the park.

Several people who lived in the same nearby apartment complex as Jahi, his mother and the defendant testified they didn't see the child the week he disappeared.

Jahi's mother, Tameka Jones, was in the Navy and was out to sea when the child disappeared.

One woman, Casey Jo Daniel, testified that she saw Jahi playing by himself in the apartment complex playground three days before he was reported missing by the defendant.

She said Jahi was still playing in the playground when she headed back to her apartment with her daughter, but never saw him after that.

"It's heartbreaking," Daniel said. "It's not something you forget. It's a life-changing event."

Other neighbors said they saw Jones carrying bags of trash to a Dumpster the week Jahi disappeared. Children's clothing was found in that Dumpster.

A pair of Jahi's pajamas was also found in the trunk of Jones' car.

According to a declaration in support of an arrest warrant, Jahi's blood was found on a "onesie" in a laundry basket. An Elmo blanket, which was recovered from a bed, also had the child's blood on it, according to the declaration.

The boy's disappearance prompted weeks of intensive searches of canyons, fields and neighborhoods in the area, as well as a grueling weeklong sweep of the Miramar Landfill.

The efforts turned up no evidence regarding what had become of Jahi, who soon was considered a probable homicide victim.

Seven months after the child vanished, Jones was arrested by a bounty hunter in San Diego and taken to Maryland to face unrelated drug charges. He was convicted of trespassing, possession of a controlled substance, and assault in 2006, which resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.

Jones' preliminary hearing continues Wednesday and testimony is expected to continue all week. At the end of the hearing, Judge Charles Rogers will determine whether enough evidence was presented for the defendant to stand trial on charges of murder and child abuse causing death.

The defendant faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.