The mother of a Western Michigan University student shot and killed in December 2016 said she felt ‘devastated and disgusted’ by a jury’s finding of not guilty for one man accused of murdering him.
Joeviair Kennedy, 21, on Thursday, June 14, was found not guilty of murder and one felony firearm charge but was found guilty of armed robbery and a second felony firearm charge in the Dec. 7, 2016, shooting death of Jacob Jones. Jones, 19, was gunned down in his apartment at SoHo apartments on Howard Street near the university’s campus.
Jurors deliberated for two days before delivering the verdict.
Kennedy’s co-defendant, Jordan Waire, was found guilty in May of felony murder, armed robbery and felony firearms charges. Kennedy testified at Waire’s preliminary examination that it was Waire who pulled the trigger. Investigators connected Kennedy to the crime after finding his phone at the apartment.
Tara Workman, Jones’ mother, said she disagreed with the jury’s verdict and felt jurors should have found Kennedy guilty of second-degree murder.
She said she doesn’t know if her son got justice.
“He had the face of a friend of Jacob,” Workman said of Kennedy. “Jacob was a good person and he trusted him and he let him into his life and into his house, and all Kennedy was doing was casing out the place.”
Workman said Kennedy had given Jones and a friend tickets to his WMU basketball game days before the shooting, which they attended. She said Jones and Kennedy met at SoHo apartments and occasionally played basketball or worked out together.
Kennedy’s family declined to comment following the verdict.
Eusebio Solis, Kennedy’s defense attorney, said the verdict was an “appropriate decision,” because the evidence showed Jones was pistol whipped and the gun went off.
“I believe and I think the jury believed Mr. Kennedy had no idea” there would be a shooting, Solis said.
Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Reisterer told jurors Waire had asked Kennedy “who can we rob?” Reisterer said Kennedy set up the robbery, supplied the bandanna Waire used as a mask and downloaded an app on his phone to conceal his phone number to ask Jones to buy marijuana.
Waire and Kennedy burst into the apartment, with their faces covered — Kennedy was wearing a hoodie pulled tight over his face to conceal his long dreadlocks, and Waire wore a bandanna over his nose and mouth, Reisterer said.
Waire hit Jones in the face with the gun, which shot him in the face. Jones died nearly instantly from the gunshot to the face, a medical examiner testified.
Kennedy’s defense attorney, Eusebio Solis, told jurors Kennedy signed up for the armed robbery, but not the homicide.
Workman said Jones had been studying exercise science at WMU. He had a plan to move with his roommate and lifelong friend to the U.S. Virgin Islands to work after obtaining their degrees.
“He was such a bright light,” Workman said. “Moms say that about their kids, but he brought so much joy to everybody.”
Kennedy faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced July 16.