Homestead woman sentenced for kidnapping Mercer college student
Just after a Homestead woman was sentenced by an Indiana County judge Friday to three to seven years in prison for kidnapping a Mercy County teenager in what police called a botched murder attempt, authorities announced that her alleged accomplice had been arrested.
Marlena Lynn Jones, 34, of 819 Sarah St., Homestead, was sentenced by President Judge William Martin on charges of kidnapping and aggravated assault.
Jones pleaded guilty to those charges while a charge of attempted murder was withdrawn.
District Attorney Patrick Dougherty announced after the proceeding that Jones' alleged co-conspirator, Dwayne M. Jefferson, 31, of Homestead was apprehended Monday and arrested on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping. He is being held in the county prison on $100,000 bond set by Blairsville District Judge Jennifer Rega.
In court documents related to Jones' case, Jefferson was described as a mystery suspect. According to an affidavit of probable cause filed this week, Jones eventually identified Jefferson and an arrest warrant was issued in early February.
Dougherty credited state police investigators with persistently “piecing together a complicated case” and eventually arresting Jefferson.
“I'm pleased that the sentence was within the (state sentencing) standards and now we'll devote our attention to prosecuting Mr. Jefferson,” Dougherty said.
The victim, Thomas A. Pierce III, 20, of Farrell, Mercer County, and family members attended the sentencing hearing, but declined comment.
Jones did not address Martin, but public defender Bradley Ophaug asked the judge for leniency
“The victim (Pierce) is not completely innocent here. She (Jones) has been very cooperative and provided details to investigators that were not previously known,” Ophaug said. “She is remorseful for her actions and apologizes to the court and Mr. Pierce.”
Martin said Jones will serve her sentence at the state correctional institution in Muncy, a woman's prison in Lycoming County. At a preliminary hearing in August, Pierce testified that he got a phone call from Jones, a family friend who was seeking cocaine, on the afternoon of July 16. Jones and a man whom Pierce had never met arrived at Pierce's home, and he took them to a low-income housing development where they allegedly bought drugs, Pierce testified.
When the group was driving Pierce back to Farrell, Jones claimed the drugs were fake, Pierce said.
“She got real angry,” Pierce testified. “She was saying ... that I had something to do with it, and I was saying that I didn't.”
The group returned to Homestead, where Jones held Pierce at gunpoint at her home.
“She cocked it back and said, ‘Don't say no words,'” Pierce testified. “I was terrified.”
Pierce was ordered to strip to his underwear and socks. He testified that the man tied and taped him and placed him in a plastic laundry tote. Jones stuck Pierce with a needle that later was determined to contain insulin, Pierce testified.
“My whole body was numb, and it felt like my body was shutting down, like, real quick,” he said.
Jones and the man allegedly drove Pierce to a wooded area along Route 286 in Young Township and attempted to shoot him.
“Marlena had a gun, and she was trying to shoot me, but she said the gun jammed,” Pierce testified.
He said he was doused in lighter fluid and thrown into a fire, but only his leg and elbow were burned. Pierce said he escaped and flagged down a motorist. He was taken to a hospital, then interviewed by police.
Trooper Scott Mackanick testified that Pierce smelled of “some type of accelerant” when they spoke in the hospital. “He was pretty disheveled and out of it,” Mackanick said.
Jefferson's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before Rega.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.