ST. GEORGE —Impassioned arguments were made by both sides, one asking for jail while the other was asking for mercy, during a sentencing hearing involving a St. George man convicted of sexual abuse of a child.

Defense attorney William Palmer and defendant Edward H. Jones, (shown on right), who is sentenced on second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child charges in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

On Tuesday, 73-year-old Edward H. Jones appeared before District Judge Eric A. Ludlow on two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child.

Last summer when the case was filed, the defendant faced five first-degree felony charges, including three counts of rape of a child and one count each of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and sodomy of a child, along with one second-degree felony count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

Following a resolution hearing held in July, the state amended the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.

The second child  

The case stems from an investigation conducted by St. George detectives who received a report alleging that Jones had molested and sexually assaulted a child who was under the age of 11 at the time. Abuse that continued for several years, as reported by St. George News last summer.

Detectives identified a second underaged victim that authorities say was sexually molested by Jones in 2017. Investigators also found the suspect’s social media account contained messages that were purportedly sent to an underaged girl in November requesting explicit photos.

The suspect initially denied molesting the first youth while speaking to police, adding the child may have given him massages. Jones told officers he could not remember due to suffering a mini-stroke, an event that occurred more than a decade before any of the purported abuse took place.

When questioned further, the suspect responded by saying “if it happened, which I don’t believe it did, I cannot remember,” according to police. Those statements would be reiterated during the sentencing hearing.

The state’s case

Prosecutor Zachary Weiland said the case involved more than one victim. And despite all of the defendant’s medical issues, which he said can be addressed in jail, that Jones “should be taken off the floor.”

2022 Booking photo of Edward H. Jones who is convicted of second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child charges in St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The prosecutor went on to say that while the pre-sentence report recommended 105 days in jail, the state was asking for a year in county jail and a lifetime sex offender registry requirement.

He closed by saying the sentence would send the following message: 

“To all future individuals that want to abuse small children,” he said. “That’s what happens.” 

Victim statement

An impact statement was read by one of the victims who addressed the defendant by describing the effects his actions had, one of which was a fear that gripped an entire family. Jones “picked the wrong little girl” to abuse, thinking she would remain quiet. But she did not, the survivor said.

“They put it out all in the news so everyone knew who you were,” she said. “I hope you are proud of the person you are.”

Another addressed the defendant by saying, “I will never forgive you for the lies that you have told,” and the damage the defendant’s actions had on the family, “the deeds of a coward. ”

“I hope you feel completely defeated — the way you made your victims feel,” the victim said.

The defense

William Palmer, Jones’s defense attorney said, “The problem we have in this case is that Mr. Jones has suffered significant strokes. He doesn’t have memories.”

Consequently, he said, his client took responsibility for the actions he had no memory of. Palmer went on to say that while the state was asking for jail, his client has several serious medical conditions that would put him at risk should he be incarcerated.

During Jones’s initial incarceration, the jail had to release him to medical staff because they were unable to accommodate medical issues, Palmer said, at which point Jones was placed on house arrest. Since then, his client has spent more than a year on home detention and has complied court requirements.

On behalf of his client, Palmer said that Jones wanted the court to know that he was extremely sorry, “if these things occurred.”

The sentence

District Judge Eric A. Ludlow presides over sentencing hearing of Edward H. Jones, who is convicted second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child charges in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Ludlow started by suspending the sentence of 1-15 years in prison. He also ordered that Jones be placed on three years’ supervised probation and that he register as a sex offender “for the remainder of your life.”

The judge then addressed the defendant, saying, “Quite frankly, Mr. Jones, I hope this is not a death sentence, however, this is an egregious situation as far as the court is concerned,” and said the defendant’s crimes could land him in prison for 30 years. 

“I am not imposing that — but I am going to impose that you serve one year in Washington County jail,” he said.

Minutes later, Jones was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom and placed in the custody of the Washington County Jail.

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