Earl Preston Jones
I stated the other day that I have researched several cases to put together over the last several days. I have not done too bad considering I have published eight in the last three and a half days but I have been reminded why I do not do things like this. When it is time to find a case to research I look for those that grab my attention at the time. If I do not do that then I can spend forever wasting time because I am just not interested in the case. The problem with doing several at one time to publish at a later date is that while it was interesting when I researched it, it may not be as interesting to me now. As it was time to pick the next case to put together several that were ready were no longer interesting to me. Hopefully that will not last long because the other downfall to researching several at a time and not publishing them right away is that I get forgetful or confused with the case from time to time. But, I did find one that still interests me.
I have said in the past that cases of neighbor disputes for some reason happens to be one of my “favorite” types of crimes to look into. I think that possibly the reason for this is because in general there are three types of victims and perpetrators. First there is the most common in which the perpetrator someone very close to the victim. This is your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, or even parent/child or sibling cases. Then there are the cases in which the perpetrator knows the victim in some way but they are not close necessarily. And then there are the stranger cases that are most often committed by serial or spree killers. Spree killings interest me somewhat but when it comes to serial killers and other stranger murders they simply are not as interesting to me which does seem odd considering my “fascination” with true crime. For me there seems to be less motive and reasoning behind those types of murders, which of course makes them sadder and unwarranted, and yet I am less interested in them. It is the middle type that fascinates me the most I believe because while there is a motive they are general mundane and for lack of a better work more “stupid” than the average motive. A spouse will kill another for financial gain or even control if it is a situation in which the other spouse in intending to leave them. A child will murder a parent for “freedom.” But crimes committed by neighbors or just acquaintances are different. There is generally no financial gain for them and their reasons seem so petty. Now, the case of Earl Preston Jones is not necessarily a “neighbor dispute” and in this case one could possibly argue he had the option for financial gain, but even still it does not fall into the first type I discussed. Earl Preston Jones was landlord who murdered his tenants seemingly simply because he wanted to move someone else into the home. Jones obviously had legal means that he could have attempted to use since he was the landlord but even by most reports the tenants themselves had done little to nothing to warrant being evicted from the home. Besides Jones did not want to legally evict them, he just wanted them to leave and he was going to make sure that happened one way or another.
In the early morning hours of June 5, 1982 in Sun Valley California, located in Los Angeles county, Betty Daniels was awoken by gunshots about five in the morning. It appeared to be coming from outside her home, but very close by. Betty's son, Walter Cantwell also lived with her and heard the shots. He looked outside and he saw Jones, come out of the home next door, get in his car and drive away. Cantwell made his way to the home and knocked when he saw Jones return. He claimed that Jones was carrying a shotgun at the time. Cantwell told Jones he had heard shots coming from the home and Jones simply responded with “Yeah, so did I.” According to Cantwell, Jones then simply turned around and headed back to his car but not before telling him “Don't get involved.” Once again Jones just got into his car and drove away.
Inside the home authorities would find the bodies of thirty year old Patricia Khan and thirty-one year old boyfriend Charles Rambert. Jones had rented the home to them in February of 1982, just four months earlier. Reports say that by early June the tension between Jones and the tenants were over a rent dispute but apparently it was not as easy as the fact that they were behind on rent in any way. Neighbors claim that the dispute was over the fact that Jones had agreed to lower the rent in exchange for some carpentry work Rambert did but that Jones then later reneged on that deal. As June approached Jones had allegedly ordered them to move from the home but they told him the only way they would do so is if he legally evicted them.
A week before the murders it was alleged that Jones told someone that unless they moved out by the weekend he would “blow them away.” On June 1st Jones told Jimmy Lindsay, a prospective renter, that Rambert and Khan would vacate the home by June 4th. When that did not happen Lindsay told Jones that he would have to look elsewhere for a place to live. Lindsay claims that Jones told him that the home would be available to him “one way or another.” He also allegedly told Lindsay that if necessary he would take his gun with him and move them out himself.
It is not clear if Cantwell immediately called the police after seeing Jones leave that early morning. But authorities entered the home and found both Rambert and Kahn shot in separate rooms in bed. Both had been shot, apparently with a 12-gauge shot gun from about ten feet away in the head. Rambert was also shot twice in the chest and had appeared to have been struck by some sort of blunt object in the chin, neck and arm before he was shot.
Investigators would later prove that after the murders Jones had pawned the gun that he had used. He had also told his niece that he was going to Oakland to find work. He asked her for an address of an uncle she had living there and to take him to the bus station. He handed her the keys to his car and told her to keep it. Authorities were able to detain and arrest Jones at the bus station. Despite there seeming to be absolutely no question as to who and why these murders were committed, Jones attempted to maintain his innocence. His defense wanted to argue mental illness and of course as is par for the course several evaluations were done.
While his exact criminal history is unclear, it does appear that the police had been called at least twice over Jones' behaviors in other situations. In 1975 four women were living in one of Jones' homes. One day he went and demanded that each woman pay him an additional ten dollars in rent. He allegedly accused them of prostitution as well as giving him a “fake bill” for a pool filter they had deducted from the rent. In the process Jones was said to have hit one of the women on the head with his fist and when another attempted to call the police he pulled out a knife and then pulled out the phone cord. The women fled to the house next door to call the police. I found nothing about if any charges were brought or what happened in that case, or with the women.
In 1978 a man named Harold Willis sometimes gave Jones' wife, Marcia, a ride to work. Jones went to Willis' house one day and accused him of “socializing” (better known now as cheating I suppose) with his wife. There was obviously a scuffle in which Jones grabbed Willis by the neck and “bounced him off a brick wall.” Willis suffered from cuts on his face, head and neck. When Jones refused to leave neighbors called the police, but once again I found nothing else on this incident and what may or may not have happened after.
By the time Jones went on trial in 1983 he was divorced from Marcia. Despite her testifying for the defense and claiming that he was a good person she alleged that he had a tendency to get angry and suspicious for seemingly no reason. She recounted an incident in which she claimed Jones had insisted the two go for a ride in which he then put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. I do not know if the police were ever called to their home through their marriage and if there were any other claims or charges of domestic violence.
My research indicates that Jones was convicted in the murders of Patricia Kahn and Charles Rambert in 1983 and that the prosecution requested the death penalty. Research also shows that Jones was not sentenced until February of 1985. I can only assume that the delay was due to the defense still attempting to have evaluations done on Jones' mental state and fitness. As is often the case experts provided testimony that fit the theory of whichever side they were testifying for. Experts for the defense claimed that Jones suffered from paranoid schizophrenia but even they could not “expressly link” this illness to his mental state at the time of the murders. This means that while they did believe Jones suffered from a mental illness, it did not mean he was having an “episode” at the time of the murders. However, despite this they testified that they believed he was “insane” at the time of the murders. The prosecution then presented two experts of their own. One stated that they did believe Jones was paranoid but not to the point that he suffered from schizophrenia and that he was sane at the time of the murders. The other doctors comments were interesting. He expressly stated that he did not feel that doctors were any more qualified to determine whether someone was sane or insane than the common lay person. The defense then called a rebuttal witness who stated that the presence of schizophrenia could be determined by a particular chemical in the body. He claimed Jones carried this chemical.
After all of the testimony was presented on February 22, 1985 Earl Preston Jones was officially sentenced to die in the gas chamber in California. California is more known for putting people on death row than they are of actually executing them. They have only executed thirteen people since 1978 and the last person was executed in 2006. As of January 2018 there were nearly 750 inmates on death row in the state, more than twice as many as Florida, the next state with the highest inmates on death row. Twice since 2006 the voters have had the opportunity to legally ban the use of the death penalty but both times they voted it down. The problem is that the California Supreme Court ruled that the way it was written or done at some point apparently around 2006 was unjust and lawmakers have been unable to come up with a solution. Every few years it is alleged that California is getting close to re-starting executions and then something else comes up.
Either way it was all too late for Earl Preston Jones or the families of his victims. He died in prison (I did not find a cause although it seems likely to be natural causes) on February 3, 2006.