Fleming teen gets 16 years for killing stepfather; attorneys say schizophrenia, drugs fueled crime

AUBURN | Logan Jones appeared in the traffic circle near Emerson Park on Dec. 23, 2013 claiming he was Jesus.

The then 18-year-old Fleming teenager told police he was both God and Logan Jones and that the devil was after him. He stated that an alien attack was imminent and that the government had planted ideas in his head ordering him to kill his stepfather John Welsh.

That day, Jones was admitted to a hospital.

He spent seven days in a psychiatric ward and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Jones was prescribed medication to treat his auditory hallucinations and psychosis and released from the hospital at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2013.

About eight hours later, Welsh was dead — stabbed to death by his stepson.

Jones appeared Thursday morning in Cayuga County Court to be sentenced for killing Welsh 13 months ago inside the kitchen of their 5828 Lakeview Drive home. The 19-year-old man’s sentencing came about two months after he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.

When discussing the impetus behind Jones’ fatal actions, two causes were repeatedly discussed: Mental illness and drug abuse. The attorneys, however, did not agree which factor was more to blame.

District Attorney Jon Budelmann said illicit drugs were “the primary cause” fueling Jones’ crime.

“If he had not been using illicit drugs that night, this tragedy would not have happened,” he said.

While agreeing that Jones does have a mental illness, Budelmann argued that Jones’ abuse of synthetic drugs, marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy fueled his paranoid thoughts. Once he entered the Cayuga County Jail’s custody and did not have access to drugs, the delusions ceased, Budelmann said.

In addition to Jones’ illicit drug use, Budelmann cited another inciting incident: A burglary Jones attempted to commit with Welsh.

On Aug. 13, 2013, Welsh attempted to pry open the door of an Auburn home while his stepson watched. The pair, along with a third person, were later arrested and charged with attempting to burglarize the Elizabeth Street residence.

Budelmann said that while Jones kept quiet, Welsh cooperated with investigators, later admitting in court that he attempted to burglarize the home while Jones was present.

“I believe that was somewhat pivotal,” the DA said. “For such a loyal person as Mr. Jones, whose own biological father abandoned him, this was a betrayal of sorts.”

After Jones was released from the psychiatric ward on Dec. 30, 2013, Budelmann said a worried Welsh ordered his stepson not to attend a party. But when Welsh left to bring his younger children to a hockey game, Jones disobeyed his stepfather, leaving home to drink, smoke and party with his friends.

When Jones returned home around 11 p.m., his stepfather was home — and, according to Budelmann, likely not pleased that Jones was high.

Soon after, one of Jones’ little brothers heard Welsh calling his name. Budelmann said the boy saw Jones standing over his father holding a bloody knife. The boy pulled Jones off of their father and, with two of their other siblings in the home, told his brother to leave.

“An event that will forever scar them, along with Mr. Jones,” Budelmann said. “Things children should never see.”

Budelmann said he believes the defendant has changed in the 13 months he spent in custody. He said Jones now advises his siblings to stay away from drugs and avoid fights — advice Budelmann believes could have helped save Welsh’s life.

“I respect the fact that this defendant did not try to blame his stepfather,” he said. “If he had not been using illicit drugs that night, this tragedy would not have happened.”

To David Elkovitch, Jones’ attorney, his client’s actions can be traced back to mental illness, not drugs.

Elkovitch said his client has chronic paranoid schizophrenia, and has suffered from auditory hallucinations and delusions. Before he stabbed Welsh multiple times, Elkovitch said Jones had considered burning down his house because “the devil lived there.”

“Logan has a mental illness problem that you cannot see,” the defense attorney said. “But that does not mean the mental illness is not present in Logan.”

His client’s mental health issues, which Elkovitch said became apparent when Jones was 16, forced the teenager to drop out of high school.

As his family sought help for Jones’ physical and mental ailments, Elkovitch said Jones earned a GED and tried to work multiple jobs. But despite two hospitalizations and treatment attempts, his delusions continued — before and after Welsh’s death.

“It was not Logan Jones that killed John Welsh,” Elkovitch said. “It was mental illness that killed John Welsh.”

Jones and Welsh’s family members agreed.

Wearing a green shirt emblazoned with the words “Children’s Mental Health Matters,” Maureen Westlake-Welsh, Jones’ mother and Welsh’s wife, said her family has stayed together despite the tragedy — just as her late husband would have wished.

“We are not a family torn apart,” she said.

Westlake-Welsh said her husband was a  loving father who was beloved by his five children. The culinary arts school graduate served as a caregiver to his mother-in-law, and stayed home with his children while his wife worked as a nurse.

Bonnie Welsh, the late John Welsh’s sister, tearfully agreed.

“My brother was a very loving person,” she said. “He was a very exceptional father.”

After describing her late husband, Westlake-Welsh asked Judge Thomas Leone to show her son leniency and help him get the help he needs.

“Please allow my son to receive a fair and just sentence,” she said. “It is the responsible of society to make sure Logan is not failed again.”

When given a chance to speak for himself, Jones told the court he stabbed his stepfather out of “fear and confusion,” not out of anger or hate.

“I have always loved my father and would do anything to have him back,” he said.

At the time of his stepfather’s death, Jones said his delusions weighed heavily on him — convincing him that if he did not take action, the world would end. Apologizing to his family, Jones told the court he believes his future holds better days.

“I still hope for the best,” he said.

Before sentencing Jones, Leone took both attorney’s arguments into consideration. Although he said there are times Jones appears to be free of the delusions that have plagued him, Leone said he believes Jones has “severe mental health issues.”

In addition, Leone said Jones seems truly sorry for killing the man who served as his father.

“He’s taken full responsibility,” he said. “He is remorseful.”

For first-degree manslaughter, Leone sentenced Jones to serve 16 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision. For the attempted burglary committed in June 2013, Jones was sentenced to a concurrent seven years in prison three years of post-release supervision.

When Jones is released from prison, he will be about 35 years old.

 source:http://auburnpub.com/news/local/fleming-teen-gets-years-for-killing-stepfather-attorneys-say-schizophrenia/article_def57802-3c22-53da-a6ef-7332fd0192a6.html