After Brian Jones Sr., 36, pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to that charge in Circuit Court in Snow Hill, Judge Thomas C. Groton III ordered a pre-sentence investigation.
Judge Groton permitted Jones to remain out of jail on bond to care for his wife, who was in the courtroom in a wheelchair the day he pleaded guilty to the drug offense.
Jones, his defense attorney had said, was the sole caretaker for his wife, Jennifer, who was unable to get out of bed unassisted and needed help with essential needs such as bathing and dressing. Unable to eat, the woman, who weighed less than 100 pounds was fed through a feeding tube.
Less than three weeks later, Jennifer Melvin, 29, died at Atlantic General Hospital.
In court May 2, Jones thanked Judge Groton for allowing him to be with his wife “for her last 20 days on earth.”
Jones had been the target of an investigation into drug distribution by the Criminal Enforcement Team of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. A detective obtained his cell phone number, called and left a message. Jones called the detective and agreed to sell him eight bundles of heroin, with each bundle containing 12 to 13 bags of the drug, for $1,040.
The two met in a store parking lot in Ocean Pines on May 30, 2013. Jones was driven there by a 29-year-old woman who, according to court information, shares his address in Ocean Pines. Jones left that vehicle, got into the detective’s vehicle and handed him a black hat. Inside the hat were the bags of heroin.
The detective gave Jones money for the heroin and the two parted ways. As Jones returned to his residence in the area known as Sherwood Forest in South South Ocean Pines, other detectives followed him.
Jones was charged with distribution of heroin, two counts of possession of heroin with the intent to distribute it, conspiracy to distribute heroin, conspiracy to possession heroin with the intent to distribute it, two counts of possession of heroin and conspiracy to possess heroin.
In exchange for his guilty plea to the first charge, the other charges against him were not prosecuted.
In court last Friday, Jones’ defense attorney, Edward Richitelli, said Jones had become addicted to drugs following a 2006 accident when he was struck by a vehicle while riding a bike and suffered a head injury. He was prescribed oxycodone and then oxycontin for pain. He had traded marijuana for heroin with a female friend, who “got jammed up with police and turned them on to my client,” Richitelli said. That started the investigation that led to his arrest.
Assistant State’s Attorney Ajene Turnbull said the sentencing guidelines for Jones, who had no criminal record, were six months to three years incarceration. Judge Groton, however, meted out a harsher sentence of four years, although three years were suspended, to be followed by two years of supervised probation.
“This is not an unusual case,” Judge Groton said of the circumstances of a person who is prescribed painkillers and moves on to heroin.