Judge declares a mistrial in 2002 toddler murder case

SAN DIEGO -- A judge in the case of the man accused of murdering 2-year-old Jahi Turner in 2002 has declared a mistrial after the jury members could not agree on a verdict.

On a second-degree murder charge, jurors told Judge Joan Weber that they had deadlocked: two for guilty and 10 for not-guilty. The jury also deadlocked on involuntary manslaughter charges, with two for not-guilty and 10 for guilty.

After discussing the situation with jurors, Weber declared the mistrial. A status conference is scheduled Wednesday to map out the next step in the case.

Tieray Jones was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his stepson after he was left to care for Turner when his wife Tameka Jones -- who was in the Navy -- went out to sea .

On April 25, 2002, Jones called 911 and said his stepson disappeared in the park when he walked to get a drink from a nearby vending machine.

"I'm sorry that the jury couldn't come to a verdict in this case," the jury foreman said outside court. "I apologize to Tameka (Jahi's mother)."

Tramane Sampson, Jahi's biological father, told reporters he was "frustrated" that the jury couldn't come to a decision.

Sampson said he was sure Jones was responsible for his son's death. Sampson said he saw "guilt" when he observed Jones in the courtroom.

"I know him personally," Sampson said of the defendant. "I know what type of dude he is."

In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said Jahi Turner died on the second day he was being watched by Jones, either by inflicted injury or as the result of an accident. Jones got rid of the child's body and fabricated a story that Jahi was kidnapped from a park about a mile from their Golden Hill apartment, the prosecutor alleged.

The defendant had no money and was frustrated with Jahi wetting the bed, Rooney said.

"You make up a story like this to get away with murder," Rooney told the jury. "The word of an admitted liar, that is all you have."

The prosecutor said the tot was never seen after April 22. Two days later, neighbors saw the defendant carrying three full large trash bags toward a Dumpster, Rooney said, telling jurors that Jahi "was thrown away like a piece of trash." The child's body was never found.

Jones told his wife that Jahi fell off the bed and hit his head. The defendant wrote in a journal that Jahi was "lethargic" and was "not really moving" two days before he reported him missing.

"I don't want him (Jahi) hating me for something I can't control," the defendant wrote in the journal.

Deputy Public Defender Courtney Cutter told the jury that law enforcement focused on Jones as their suspect from the beginning.

"Mr. Jones has always, always been their guy," Cutter said.

Cutter said Jones may not have been the "best guy" but wasn't a man who would "watch his stepson die and throw him away in the garbage."

"He's an imperfect father but not a reluctant one," Cutter said.

Jones was flawed, but wasn't a cold-blooded killer, his attorney told the jury.

"If he (Jones) killed him for wetting the bed, why is he writing about it the next day?" Cutter wondered.

Jones was arrested in April 2016 in North Carolina and brought back to San Diego to face the murder charge.