Hit-and-run victim had complicated, tragic life
By Rhiannon Meyers
The Daily News
Published April 2, 2009
LEAGUE CITY — You might expect Maurice Devron Jones’ life to have been as simple as his death was tragic.
At 34, he worked the night shift at a McDonald’s restaurant. He walked to and from work and spent nights watching late movies on a sheet-covered couch at his mother’s house.
But as the story of his death at the hands of a hit-and-run driver draws national attention, the story of his life reveals a complicated past.
Accused of Murder
As police continue to search for the person who left Jones dead in a roadside ditch and a hastily written note of apology beside his body, his mother fields phone calls, some from strangers as far away as California, offering condolences in the death of a son whose life was a series of tragedies and challenges.
Those challenges included the 11-1/2 months he spent jailed on charges he murdered his Dickinson roommate — he was later acquitted — and the loss of the relationship with his 11-year-old daughter, Jada, whom he hadn’t seen in four years, his mother, Roberta Jones, said.
Before he died, Maurice had been trying to convince Jada’s mother to let him see Jada, Roberta said.
“I had 34 years with Maurice, but for his daughter — she won’t have that,” she said.
Aside from the note, which police speculate could have been written by a woman with a family, investigators have found few clues left behind by the driver.
Nothing came of interviews with employees of auto body shops, glass repair shops and carwashes, said Sgt. David Hausam of the League City Police Department. Investigators, so far, have little to go on to figure out who killed Maurice Jones.
Born at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston on April 23, 1974, Maurice spent most of his life in the League City area.
Roberta was a single mother who worked constantly to support Maurice and his younger sister, Jamie. Although Maurice’s father was a part of his life, they were never close, Roberta said.
Maurice and Jamie, on the other hand, were as close as siblings can be, and the two frequently wreaked havoc on their mother’s house.
“You know how women like to collect things like china?” she asked. “I never could have any china in that house.”
Teachers always told Roberta that Maurice was a sweet child, she said.
He loved history classes. He religiously watched National Geographic shows and collected the magazines, she said.
As he grew older, Maurice became a ladies’ man. No matter how many times his mother told him, “No phone calls after 10 p.m.,” the phone would still ring at 2 a.m. and there would always be a female voice on the other end, she said.
Toward the end of high school, Maurice met Heather Gilmore, then a 16-year-old single mother living in the same apartment complex.
Despite their off-and-on relationship that spanned 18 years, Maurice always remained a father figure to her son, Gilmore said.
When Maurice graduated in 1993 from Clear Creek High School, Roberta wanted him to go to college, she said.
He was so good with numbers and math, she knew he was destined to be an engineer, she said. But, Maurice had other ideas. Instead of college, Maurice took a job with an electrician in Clear Lake.
‘It Broke My Heart’
During one of his off periods with Gilmore, Maurice moved in with Michelle Stapp of Dickinson.
On Feb. 22, 2003, Stapp was found dead inside the house with a power cord around her neck. Police named Maurice as a suspect.
Two years later, police arrested Maurice in Killeen, where he was living with his sister, and brought him back to Galveston County. He sat in jail for more than 11 months because no one could afford to bail him out.
Roberta was one of the first people Maurice called from jail, she said.
“I said, ‘Maurice, did you do it?’ And he said, ‘Mama, I swear — I swear to God — I didn’t.’”
Police said Maurice confessed to the murder shortly after his arrest but the tape of that confession was left out of the trial because of a dispute about whether he had waived his right to an attorney before giving a statement.
Roberta said police and a court-appointed attorney tried to convince Maurice to confess but he maintained his innocence.
“It broke my heart to see him sit there and cry,” she said.
When he was acquitted of murder charges in March 2006, Maurice told The Daily News he owed his freedom to God.
“I started to pray,” he said. “I read my Bible, and I started to go to the (county jail’s) law library. Once I learned what all my rights were and really understood how it all worked, it changed everything for me.’”
Though he was acquitted, Jada’s mother refused to let Maurice see Jada, Roberta said.
It’s always bothered the man who loves children he couldn’t have a relationship with his own daughter, Gilmore said.
After he was released from jail, Maurice worked odd jobs.
From dog sitting to cleaning houses, there was no job he felt he was too good to do, his mother said.
When Hurricane Ike hit Galveston in September, Maurice used his carpentry skills to earn money rebuilding houses.
But work wound down and, without enough money to support himself, Maurice asked his mother if he could move back in with her.
Having him home again was a blessing, Roberta said.
He helped take care of his 74-year-old grandmother, who is recovering from a stroke, and he did all the household jobs Roberta couldn’t do on her own.
He was planning to replace their roof that was damaged by the hurricane when he had a day off from McDonald’s.
‘I’m Not Angry’
In the meantime, the sky blue pickup Maurice had bought from a friend was in much worse shape than he thought when he bought it.
So, as the truck sat idle on the street in front of his mother’s house, Maurice walked to and from work at the fast food restaurant 2.5 miles from his mother’s house.
When Maurice didn’t come home after his 10 p.m. shift Saturday, Roberta thought he had been too tired to make the walk and had stayed with a friend.
A League City police officer told her Sunday that Maurice’s body had been found in a ditch, less than a mile and a half from their house, the apparent victim of a hit-and-run. He was wearing his McDonald’s uniform.
Roberta said she can’t bring herself to drive by the spot where his body was found.
A California woman, a stranger, called Roberta on Tuesday night to offer her condolences. They talked on the phone for 30 minutes.
Roberta recalled the conversation.
“She said: ‘My heart goes out to you. Don’t be angry at the person who did this. Just pray for them. Ask God to give them the strength to turn themselves in.’
“For the person who did this: I’m not angry. I’m not at that part yet. I’m just so hurt.”’