Meeting the real life monster
“Cruelty has a Human Heart…terror the Human Form Divine and Secrecy the Human Dress.”—William Blake
Along with my co-worker and friend Natalie Perkins, I had the honor last Friday to sit on a symposium panel at Millsaps College with the other respective recipients of the Bill Minor awards for investigative reporting and general news writing. Considering the exalted company, that experience gave me all new insight into George Gobel’s famous line: “Have you ever felt like the whole world is a tuxedo and you are a pair of brown shoes?”
The Clarion-Ledger’s Jerry Mitchell had just recounted some details of his latest highly acclaimed investigative piece on wives-killer Felix Vail, which resurrected a memory that just about 16 years ago this week we were having our own wife-killer trial here—the conclusion of a several year saga that had shaken and divided this greater community.
After all, how often does a Baptist preacher kill his wife? How often does a small town preacher turn out to be a monster?
It was sometime during his murder trial here that I came to understand that David Allen Jones was not your ordinary murderer. Fact is, men kill their wives every day. Some get caught; some don’t. And while all of those people are murderers, convicted or not, they are not all necessarily monsters.
But David Allen Jones is.
The eyes, they tell us, are windows to the soul, and if so, David Allen Jones has a soul as dark as an inkwell. His are the eyes of a shark—dead eyes, eyes like drowning pools, which seem to beckon, “oh, won’t you come in and play, little boy?”
Who knows how long he had been thinking, planning, waiting, but it was a little after 1 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1998, when David Allen Jones took the .22-caliber pistol that his wife’s father had given her years before and as Pamela Sue Jones lay sleeping, crept near her bed in the Anguilla Baptist Church parsonage. It wouldn’t do to wake her up—that would be a problem.
He put the barrel of the gun to her left temple and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore through her skull and into the frontal lobes of her brain, creating missiles out of the bone. Powered by propellant gases exerting pressure of 10,000 pounds per square inch, those bone missiles sought out their targets, all of which were the areas of her brain which Pamela Jones needed to think, and move and ultimately, breathe.
But Pamela Sue Jones did not die—at least completely. Almost surely she had no real cognitive process, no thought or awareness, but somewhere deep in her brain, likely at its stem, the remarkable human instinct for survival kicked in and she continued to somehow breathe.
And for David Allen Jones, that was a problem. Gunshots make noise, attract attention, and two of them so close together might attract a lot of noise in the tiny little town of Anguilla.
But for David Allen Jones there was time. Time for thinking, planning, waiting.
I’m betting he never even left the room; he just sat down on the bed by the pitiful gasping thing that used to be his wife of seven years.
He thought and he planned and he waited until just after 3 a.m. Couldn’t wait much longer than that. Some people wake up early. And when his wife continued to refuse to cooperate and die, he placed that gun barrel in the same spot as he had before, altering the angle just slightly, and pulled the trigger again.(We know that because the cumulative weight of the fragments found in her brain exceeded that of a single .22 cartridge.)
It was at that moment that David Allen Jones crossed the line which serves to define humanity. It was at that moment that he completed a likely long ago begun metamorphosis. It was at that moment when he became a monster.
For a week, I had sat next to his adoptive parents in the courtroom here. Good people, all. “He wasn’t raised like this,” his father told me and I believe him. I don’t think those people are responsible for the manifested evil that remains, for now, incarcerated by the Miss. Department of Corrections.
But what bothers me is that I don’t know what is. Be it Ted Bundy or Jeffrey McDonald, or Felix Vail, or David Allen Jones, neither I nor anyone else really knows what turns men into monsters.
And what bothers me even more is that I know that there are more of them—mercifully, not too many, for they are, indeed, special—but there are more of them even now in the making.
And even as I recall this, their transformations are underway.
Even as I write this, they are thinking, planning, waiting.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.