Two American siblings named Curtis and Catherine Jones were se*xually molested by a family member before hatching a mur*derous plot to get away. They were, in order, twelve and thirteen. The pair shared their Florida house with their father and his girlfriend. They were also residing with another male relative who had been convicted of se*xual offences; he and Curtis even shared a bed.
He and his girlfriend believed Catherine and his brother were making things up. Catherine and his brother had complained to their father multiple times about the ab*use they were receiving at the hands of his male relative. Their rage drove them to decide to mur*der the entire family. They fatally shot their father’s girlfriend with four bullets on that fateful day in 1999.
Complete Story of Curtis and Catherine Jones
On January 6, 1999, Sonya Speights was shot by her twelve-year-old brother and thirteen-year-old sister Catherine Jones in their Melbourne, Florida, home. They allegedly tried to move the body and tidy up the scene after realising what they had done, but instead they fled to a friend’s house and pretended to have shot the woman by mistake. When the parents of their friends said they were calling the police, the two children ran away and took refuge in the woods. They would be found out first thing the next morning.
Despite the best efforts of the public defenders, the state decided—and the judge agreed—that the two would be tried as adults in adult court. It seems like no one asked about the lives of the two children. The state was going to charge them with first-degree mu*rder. Curtis would be the youngest person in the country to ever go through this. If they had been charged as minors, they might have received a sentence of up to three years in prison, but the prosecution reportedly felt that was insufficient time.
The media went crazy, of course. According to popular belief, these two children ki*lled their father’s girlfriend because they envied their father’s relationship with her and believed he would wed her. At first glance, it seems like a very callous mur*der.
Through their attorneys, the children were allowed to enter a plea of guilty to second-degree mu*rder, receiving a sentence that called for eighteen years in prison followed by life on probation. Again, it seems like no one spoke up for these children or even bothered to find out what was going on at home. The most tragic part of it all is that records existed that were easy to locate, let alone eyewitnesses. One of the children’s solicitors was interviewed for an article I saw, and she discounted all the information that had come to light years later, insisting that they could only trust what their client had told them. I thought this was the best co-out I had ever seen.
Nobody seemed to care what had happened or why until Catherine conducted an interview ten years later. There appears to have been an attempt to corroborate or deny Catherine’s 2009 account, as many people chose not to accept it. The shocking findings showed that these children had been abu*sed not only by a family member but also, it appeared, by the system and by everyone they knew. Additionally, instead of getting help, they were sent to prison and treated like trash. It should be noted that the prosecutor in the case stated he did not accept the abu*se allegations in 2015 upon their release. Catherine’s testimony, or even just the testimony of those who backed the children, would be sufficient evidence, and I would be willing to overlook the prosecutor’s claim. But most of her story is backed up by documents from the police, the Department of Family Services, and other sources.
Knowing a little bit about their past, I asked, “Where was their mother?” as one of my first questions. It seems that Catherine and Curtis’s mother had left when the children were four and five years old. She would claim that their father, Curtis Sr., had threatened to abduct her children and had ab*used her. She would also say that she was unable to take her kids with her when she left Florida to escape Curtis Sr. and went back to her parents’ house in Kansas. Her parents had always opposed her relationship with Curtis Sr. because she was white and he was black. Their disdain for their bi-racial grandchildren appears to have stemmed from this, despite the fact that there were many other obvious reasons for their animosity towards Curtis Sr. The children’s mother withdrew them from school in 1993, allegedly after moving out on her own in Kansas and then returning to Florida. Curtis Sr. took her into custody and accused her of interfering with the custody of a third-degree felony. The mother was cleared of all charges, and her children were returned to their father.
Curtis Sr. was allegedly charged with second-degree mu*rder for ki*lling two men in a pool club in 1989, a few months after their mother had left. The children were sent to live with Curtis’s mother in Alabama. The charges were reduced to misdemeanours after it was determined that they were acts of self-defense. The fact that he was able to reclaim the children suggests that he was not incarcerated for an extended period of time.
A family member was convicted of ab*using the daughter of his girlfriend in 1993 and spent some time in prison; however, it doesn’t seem that anyone ever mentions the specific name of this person. He moved in with Curtis Sr. and the children after being set free. Sonya would be living with them as well. It seems that Sonya’s two girls from her previous relationship were only briefly with the family in 1998. Their grandmother raised them. When their mother was k*illed in 1999, the children were 8 and 9 years old.
It seems that prior to DFC contacting them, Curtis and Catherine travelled to Kansas to see their mother. Around the age of eight, Curtis told his mother that a family member who slept in the same room as him had touched him inappropriately. After his return, DFC went to see the family in Florida, and the eight-year-old started telling a different story. It seems the social worker suspected mistreatment even though the case was settled. A second time, DFC was contacted after Curtis went to school with a black eye. Again, there was suspicion of abu*se, which was reported, but no action was taken.
And then Catherine had fled her home four months before Sonya was ki*lled in September 1998. Again, DFC was contacted. In a conversation with them, even Catherine’s teacher expressed her belief that Catherine was experiencing ab*use at home. Though Catherine refuted the claims, this assessment—which is the most comprehensive—found “some indicators of physical and se*xual assault.” The case was closed once more, though it was noted that the family had been informed that the relative who had been convicted in 1993 and was living in the house shouldn’t be there. This appeared to be a suggestion rather than a directive from anyone. Subsequently, Catherine would assert that she was forced to lie to DFC during their visits and refute any allegations that the family member had ever hurt the children.
After that, things seemed to get worse for a few months. At the time, Catherine said, she was willing to do whatever it took to get out of the house and put an end to the torture. The fact that none of the adults in her life seemed to believe that the family member had abu*sed her further infuriated her. The plan she came up with was to take her father’s gun, kil*l her father, the relative, and Sonya with it. She claims that Curtis agreed to support her after they had a conversation about it. In retrospect, Catherine has admitted that the plan was ridiculous, especially when it came to starting with Sonya. If she had insisted on executing the plan, she should have limited it to the abu*sive family member. She went on to say that on January 6, 1999, she, Curtis, and Sonja were sitting at the table and they knew the family member would be returning later that night. Curtis began shooting at Sonya while he was sitting beneath the table, his father’s revolver resting in his lap. She knows she also took the gun and shot Sonya, though she can’t remember many details of the chaos. There were nine shots in all, and four of them hit Sonya.
As an adult, Catherine knows how ridiculous it sounds to say that her initial happiness was just from being away from the house. Like many abused children, it appears that the kids had been trained not to talk about their abuse. This presumably explains why the allegations weren’t disclosed to the public until ten years following the ki*lling.
I find it shocking that these kids were turned down for every opportunity, as I have stated before. First of all, it would not have happened if the authorities—the police and DFC included—had carried out their duties properly (the police having visited the home with social workers on at least one, if not more occasions). Mur*der is mu*rder, and that is what they did. Secondly, the public attorneys assigned to them following their apprehension ought to have conducted additional investigation and furnished the courts with that data. None of this happened. Rather, two 12- and 13-year-olds were allowed to plead guilty to a crime they actually committed without being given a fair trial.
Indeed, it seems that someone is currently attempting to obtain a pardon for them within the system. I hope they are successful in any way because “lifetime probation” does not seem appropriate or legal in my opinion.