Casino carjacker will serve up to 22 years in prison

Holly Fournier, and Oralandar Brand-Williams

Detroit — A 69-year-old MotorCity Casino carjacking victim “loved Detroit” until a night of gambling last year ended with her and her sister abandoned by a carjacker in a dark, desolate area on the city’s west side.

“Actually, there are no words to describe what happened to me,” the woman from Sterling Heights said Tuesday in a statement read in court by Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor LaToya Willis. “I loved Detroit. I grew up there. I was a strong woman, and hopefully I will be again.”

The victim’s statement was submitted during carjacker Wayne Jones’ sentencing hearing before Wayne Circuit Court Judge Mark Slavens. Jones of Redford Township will serve up to 22 years in prison for the attack.

In her statement, the victim added it has been hard to concentrate since she and her 78-year-old sister from Clinton Township were carjacked at gunpoint around 5:30 a.m. Sept. 17 on the top floor of the casino’s parking deck.

Jones expressed sorrow toward the victims and his own family.

“I was hurt. I’m still hurting. I’m sorry to my family, what I did to them,” Jones said, as his sisters and brothers watched in court. “I just want to say I’m very sorry. I will still continue to pray today and always. I made a bad choice. I know I gotta pay for it.”

Jones’ family declined to comment after the sentencing.

The defendant and his attorney indicated in court the man was desperate and scared after losing “everything” at the casino to a gambling addiction. Jones, a 49-year-old former steelworker who earned a six-figure salary, called himself a “God-fearing man” who never wanted to hurt or scare his victims.

“I throw my heart and soul at the mercy of this court,” he said before he was sentenced.

Jones was sentenced to 11-20 years for carjacking, to be served at the same time as 10-15 years each for two counts of unlawful imprisonment. He also received two years for felony firearm, to be served consecutively.

Jones pleaded guilty earlier this month, admitting he demanded the sisters give him their money and car.

Legal Aid defense attorney Kim Michon said in court her client “had an absolute falling down moment” after a lifetime of following the law. She said Jones tried to return the victims’ vehicle and mailed back some of their property, which included cellphones and purses that held $31 cash, charge cards, driver’s licenses, checkbooks, house keys and other items.

“If that is not the heart of repentance, I don’t know what is,” Michon said.

The women’s 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser was located and recovered near the casino, police have said.

After the sentencing, Michon suggested extensive media coverage influenced the lengthy prison term.

“The power of the press is enormous,” she said. “Would that sentence have been as harsh if (the press) hadn’t been here? I don’t think so.”

Michon said she previously requested a two-year felony firearm sentence plus five to 20 years on the other charges, but was turned down by the prosecution and judge.

“No judge wants to be seen as not tough on crime,” she said. “But their job isn’t to be tough on crime, that’s the prosecutor’s job.”

Michon acknowledged her request fell short of a typical prison term for similar crimes.

“It’s not a normal sentence, but I don’t believe Mr. Jones is a normal situation,” she said.

Jones has “a zero percent chance” of reoffending, his attorney said.

“There is treatment in prison for (gambling addiction),” she said. “When somebody wants help, I think we owe it to them because then you’re getting back a whole person.”

But Slavens emphasized Jones’ personal responsibility over his gambling addiction.

“It’s really too bad that your addiction contributed to what you did to these people,” he said just before handing down the sentence. “But it’s not just a gambling addiction, it’s also selfishness by you. You’re responsible. What you did that day was horrible and you terrified those women.”

Police have said Jones was desperate for money, in debt and facing foreclosure on his home, when he “lost everything” at the casino and carjacked the women last year.

One of the women has said she sustained minor injuries after Jones shoved and kicked her during the incident.

Jones, who had no criminal record, ordered the one sister, who was 68 years old at the time, to drive to the city’s west side, where he dropped the women off near Schoolcraft and Appoline. He drove away in their vehicle with some of their belongings.

A good Samaritan walked the women to the city’s Second police precinct on Lesure near Schoolcraft and Grand River, where they reported the incident.

(313) 223-4616