Trial opens in slaying of 78-year-old disabled vet

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.

Austin Jones showed no emotion as a photo of the bloodied and swollen face of the man he is accused of beating to death was shown on the first day of his trial Monday at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse.

In the photo, tubes weave in and out 78-year-old Paul Quandt’s body as he lies in a hospital bed. The disabled veteran had been beaten, stabbed and shot with a stun gun during a home-invasion robbery.

Quandt would die a week later from the injuries he received after prosecutors said Jones, 24, and his cousin, Maranda Martin, broke into Quandt’s Blues Creek home on Jan. 9, 2012, brutally beating Quandt.

Jones faces 10 charges, including first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, vehicle theft and fleeing from officers. Martin was convicted by a jury and sentenced last year to two consecutive life terms in prison.

State Attorney Bill Cervone and prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Jones, said Darry Lloyd, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office. Cervone said he would not comment until the trial is over on why the office has decided to pursue the death penalty.

The jury will hear testimony over the course of the week and decide whether Jones is guilty of the charges brought against him. Judge Mark Moseley informed jurors that Jones was currently on psychotropic medication.

Martin, Jones’ cousin, was a home health aide and had worked caring for Quandt. Kramer said Martin, who was addicted to drugs, approached her cousin to commit the robbery.

After Martin picked Jones up in Fort White, they drove to Gainesville and arrived in Blues Creek sometime around 10 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. After the two gained entrance to his home, Kramer said Jones and Martin beat, cut and kicked Quandt, bound him with duct tape, and left him with massive injuries to his head, face and ribs.

Photos showed blood on the floor and a knife on the counter that Kramer said was used to cut Quandt. Several times, Jones’ defense raised objections as to what photos were shown by the prosecution, including graphic photos of Quandt’s body and his home.

Quandt managed to drag himself to his scooter and went to his neighbor’s house for help.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Al Chipperfield asked the jurors to question if it was actually Jones’ intent to murder Quandt, adding that Quandt told his neighbor, “They told me they’d come back if the numbers didn’t work.”

When the neighbor opened her door, she said she could not recognize Quandt because he was covered in blood, Kramer said.

“You can hear her say on the 911 recording, ‘My next-door neighbor has been chopped up. He’s bleeding everywhere,’ ” Kramer said.

Kramer said surveillance video from nearby banks show Martin withdrawing money from Quandt’s account around 11:30 p.m. Later that night, officers spotted Jones in Quandt’s car and began pursuing him, reaching speeds of up to 115 miles per hour on U.S. 441. After a four-minute pursuit, Jones crashed with two other cars on 13th Street, Kramer said.

Quandt’s blood was reportedly found on a firearm in the car and on Jones’ clothing.

While Jones was in a coma at the hospital, a Gainesville police officer took photos of the knuckles on his right hand, which appeared to be swollen, Kramer said.

The trial is expected to continue through Friday.

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