KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors said Tuesday they may upgrade murder charges against a bail bondsman and wife accused in the Kansas death of a child who authorities believe is the man's missing 7-year-old son.
Michael Jones, 45, and 29-year-old Heather Jones are charged in Wyandotte County with felony first-degree murder, a count carrying a life sentence but with the eligibility for parole after 20 years. But Sheri Lidtke, a deputy district attorney, told District Judge Mike Grosko that that murder charge may be upgraded within weeks to premeditated first-degree murder, punishable by a life term with no chance of parole for a half century.
Lidtke did not explain the rationale for the upgrade but told Grosko the case does not qualify for the death penalty.
The Jones couple, who did not attend Tuesday's 10-minute status conference, were jailed on multimillion-dollar bonds and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing April 8.
Authorities found what later were determined to be a juvenile's remains after being summoned in November to investigate a reported domestic disturbance at the family's rented property, from which Michael Jones' son had been missing for months. Tests to identify the remains still are pending, District Attorney Jerome Gorman said after Tuesday's hearing.
Authorities have declined to address reports the remains had been fed to pigs at the family's property, although Gorman has said investigators described the scene "as one of the worst things that they have ever seen."
Michael Jones' court-appointed attorney, John Duma, told Grosko he has been told the roughly 1,000 pages of documents he has received in the case is roughly one-eighth to one-tenth of what he should expect, along with hundreds of hours of videotape.