On Tuesday afternoon, a nine-man, three-woman jury unanimously sentenced 38-year-old Kevin Dewayne Jones to 12 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for the Sept. 1, 2006 murder of Nathan Strong at a local fast food restaurant.
Murder defendant Kevin Dewayne Jones showed no emotion last Wednesday afternoon as Montgomery County prosecutor Sylvia Yarborough displayed graphic crime scene photos taken two years ago, after he shot his friend. The trial began on Tuesday, Dec. 2 in the 9th District Court of Judge Fred Edwards.
Just before midnight on Sept. 1, 2006, shots rang out in the KFC in the 1400 block of Loop 336 in Conroe. When the dust settled, 25-year-old Nathan Strong lay dead on the floor with gunshot wounds to the chest and head and Jones was facing the fight of his life. Jones’ 4-year-old daughter was with the pair all afternoon and was outside the restaurant when Jones fired two to four shots into the air and when the fatal shots were fired inside.
All involved agreed that the two men, both residents of Bedias, which is in Grimes County about 20 miles west of Huntsville, spent the afternoon together drinking then returned to the restaurant to pick up their wives who worked there.
The pair arrived in a 2005 Ford Taurus. A few hours later, Strong left the location in a body bag and Jones left in the back of a patrol car.
Prosecutors Sylvia Yarborough and Joel Daniels and the defense team of attorneys Andrea Kolski and Heather Hall began tried to sort out for the court what happened in the interim.
Officials with the Conroe Police Department said there was alcohol, prescription drugs, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45 caliber handgun and ammunition for both weapons inside the vehicle driven by Jones.
CPD Detective Juan Sauceda, who led the investigation, testified that the surveillance video equipment inside the restaurant was not working at the time of the shooting. He was questioned at length by both sides regarding the evidence collected, the questioning of the defendant and other parts of the investigation. Despite Sauceda’s obvious ethnicity, the defense team asked Jones questions that evoked responses insinuating Conroe Police were racist. Jones even commented that he was concerned he would be killed by law enforcement in Montgomery County because the county “has a history.” When questioned by prosecutors, Jones could not point to specific incidents on which he based those fears.
Kolski portrayed Jones as someone who was disabled, taking pain medication that would deter aggression and who loved Strong, but was trying to stop Strong from choking his (Strong’s) common-law wife Tasha Dosia to death, though Dosia testified she never feared for her life.
Throughout testimony, Kolski referred to Strong as the “complainant” and not the “victim” or the “deceased.”
She said Jones was injured and claimed he repeatedly (over the course of an hour) asked for his medication, which was inside the vehicle he was driving along with a large quantity of alcoholic beverages according to crime scene photos. Open beer cans were visible in the driver and passenger sides of a drink holder between the front seats.
When Kolski asked why Sauceda didn’t “give (Jones) his medication” during the “hour or so” of questioning, Sauceda replied, “I’m not a doctor, I can’t administer medication.”
Kolski said an elbow injury was the reason Jones had both Soma and Vicodin in the car. She did not address the alcohol or empty alcohol containers.
Sauceda testified that there were crushed beer cans of the same brand inside the business and he could smell alcohol when he walked inside.
Public records show Jones has prior convictions for driving while intoxicated and driving while license suspended.
CPD Crime Scene Investigator Benjamin Mitchell testified after Sauceda regarding official photos and videos from the scene, which were shown on two large screens. Some of the visuals were shattered glass, shell casings and crushed beer cans. However, several photos and some of the video showed an up close view of Strong, dead on the floor in a pool of his own blood behind the counter in the KFC after a shotgun blast that blew apart his head and another that struck his chest. There were also images of blood spattered over the area, including on drink cups and even the ceiling.
One juror covered his mouth with his hand. Another looked down and then back up at the screen. Some jurors repeatedly looked at the screen, and then turned their eyes toward the defendant who watched with no visible reaction, despite repeated claims by Kolski that he “loved” Strong.
Jones testified in his own defense, claiming as his attorneys had that he was only trying to save Dosia, but Yarborough again questioned why he shot Strong in the chest with a .12 gauge shotgun at close range, then felt it necessary to shoot him again in the head.
Prosecutors said the argument between Strong and Dosia was over when Jones entered the restaurant and he first shot toward but missed Dosia, who then bolted.
The prosecution raised the question over and over of why Jones never dialed 9-1-1 instead of taking matters, and a shotgun into his own hands, but no clear answer was ever provided.
On Friday, the jury convicted Jones of first-degree murder.
On Monday, the first day of the sentencing phase, Edwards began by telling the courtroom that a juror had “encountered the defendant” at some point prior to the start of the hearing, but that the incident was discussed and jurors were ready to proceed.
Defense attorneys began by requesting that Edwards declare a mistrial, apparently based on information that was discussed privately with prosecutors and the judge. Edwards promptly denied the motion. The request was repeat on Monday and Tuesday, but denied each time.
The defense stated, for the record, that they earlier requested the judge dismiss the jury and impose sentencing, which Edwards also denied.
The sentencing phase of the trial began with the victim’s family members discussing their loss and ended with Jones’ family and friends portraying him as someone who would “give you the shirt off his back.”
Latisa Bluford, the Montgomery County adult supervisor assigned to oversee the conditions of Jones’ release on bond and house arrest had a very different impression of him. Bluford testified that while Jones never had his bond revoked, he had numerous warnings for various actions and violations including being in the company of a convicted felon, once answering the phone when she called to monitor his whereabouts and telling her he (Jones) was not at home, and another time telling her she was “nosy” and asking if Bluford wanted “to know his underwear size.”
She testified that her office hours were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and when she called Jones at 8:05 p.m. he asked “if it wasn’t a little too late to be calling.”
Jones also complained to Bluford that he felt like he was “already in prison,” she said.
The official testified that she did not feel Jones would be a good candidate for probation.
The defense pointed out that Jones never failed a drug test during her supervision.
Numerous witnesses testified for the defense, including James Moore, a white man who said Jones changed his racist beliefs about African Americans and became a close family friend.
Jones’ aunt, who posted his bond, called him a “loving person who was always willing to help others.”
A second aunt, Annie Kelly-Warren, said she “raised him almost as her son,” and also testified that he was a loving and gentle person. Kelly-Warren said the family would be “devastated” if Jones went to prison and that his children needed their father.
Jones’ 16-year-old son was in the courtroom on Monday and Tuesday.
Kelly-Warren also said she feared Jones would be a “victim of violence” in prison because of his handicap and would be victimized if certain groups learned he killed a white man.
Dennis Strong, victim Nathan Strong’s father, was the first witness called by prosecutors in the sentencing phase.
Strong, a Vietnam veteran who watched the entire trial from his wheelchair, showed the courtroom his slain son’s Boy Scout merit badges. Under questioning by Daniels, Strong said his son reached the level just below Eagle Scout, but lost interest in almost everything when his brother Christopher was murdered.
Nathan Strong was the second son of Dennis and Emma Strong murdered in Montgomery County, he said.
After sentencing, Dennis Strong said he and his wife were satisfied with the verdict, but it was bittersweet, having lost their baby boy.
“Nathan was the best kid until his brother died,” Dennis Strong said. “He mowed lawns all summer to buy his football uniform.”
Christopher Strong was caught in the crossfire of a fight that didn’t involve him and a bullet struck an artery in his neck. He died soon after. Dennis Strong said the event began a downhill spiral for Nathan, who quit Boy Scouts and stopped caring about school and related activities.
Dennis Strong said he always tried to teach his children the importance of God and of education, and until Nathan lost his brother, he even spent time doing volunteer work with his father helping AIDS victims and assisting with a food pantry. But Christopher Strong’s death was a major turning point that began a dark period in Nathan’s life, their father said.
“He was closer to his brother than to anybody on the face of the earth,” Dennis Strong said. “I knew what he was going through but there was nothing I could do to help him.”
After Nathan fell in love and became a father, he began to care about something again, his father said.
“(Tasha Dosia) was the love of his life,” Strong said.
Dosia and her three children now live with Dennis and Emma Strong and Dosia is furthering her education to better provide for the family Nathan Strong left behind.
Dosia testified how she and Nathan met, fell in love and became parents together. The couple separated for a while during their lengthy relationship and Dosia became pregnant with another man’s child. When she and Strong reunited, he accepted and loved the child as his own and hoped to one day legally adopt the boy, she said. Nathan Strong was in the delivery room when Dosia’s second child was born and by all accounts never treated him any differently from Nathan Jr.
“He was wonderful with children,” Emma Strong said. “Besides his three, he had seven nieces and nephews he babysat all the time.”
Proceedings went smoothly with no outbursts, despite numerous people connected to the defendant and the victim in the courtroom throughout the trial. Neither the verdict nor the sentence evoked an audible response from either side.
The Strong family will have a final opportunity to express to Jones the void he left in their lives when they give victim impact statements at Jones’ formal sentencing on Thursday.
On scene video from KFC on Sept. 1, 2006 by Scott J. Engle