Man accused of killing Paul Quandt takes stand

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.

Austin Jones admits he killed Paul Quandt.

He admits he beat the 78-year-old until Quandt was covered in blood from head to toe. He admits he entered Quandt's Blues Creek home and kicked the disabled veteran, fracturing bones all over the man's body the night of Jan. 9, 2012.

He admits he used duct tape to bind Quandt while he and his cousin, Maranda Martin, took Quandt's valuables and drove away in his car.

But Jones said he doesn't remember doing it.

In fact, all Jones said he remembers of that day is snorting Klonopin, a drug that can be used as an antidepressant, with Martin. Hours after that, he said he just remembers waking up in the hospital. Evidence shows opiates were found in his system that night.

The prosecution and defense will give their closing arguments in the trial today at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse.

On Thursday, the prosecution and Quandt's family were surprised when they found out that Jones, 24, would testify about the crime he is accused of and on trial for.

"You agree you're responsible for Mr. Quandt's death? That it must be you who killed him?" Assistant State Attorney Brian Kramer asked Jones.

"Yes, sir. That's what the evidence shows," Jones said.

"And if you hadn't done it, he would still be alive?" Kramer asked again.

"Obviously, sir," Jones said.

Jones took the stand on Thursday and in a soft voice told jurors he was living with aunt Kathy Martin Jones after being released from jail in January 2012. He said he was trying to get a job in the Fort White area, but if he couldn't, he planned to go live with his mother.

Jones said he remembers his cousin, Maranda Martin, being sad and depressed at the time right before the beating, so he hugged her and told her he loved her. Jones says Maranda Martin complained to him about a "perverted old man" she was working with who she said had touched her buttocks. Jones said it had made him kind of angry and he told her that if she needed him, he would be there for her.

According to Jones' testimony, Martin later told him the old man had a lot of gold and money in his house and Jones said she asked him to help her rob Quandt, but Jones said he told her he would not.

Jones told the jury he had snorted Klonopin multiple times before, but that it had never affected him like it did on Jan. 9, 2012.

"It must be me, but I don't remember," Jones said. "I don't want to remember. It's horrible."

Quandt was taken to UF Health Shands Hospital, where his health quickly deteriorated. He was taken off life support and died a week later from his injuries.

Kramer said Jones and Maranda Martin, one of Quandt's former caretakers, broke into the home and beat, kicked and cut Quandt.

After that, the cousins took Quandt's valuables and loaded them into Quandt's car, authorities said. The two then bound Quandt with duct tape and drove away, Kramer said.

Quandt would later free himself from the duct tape using cooking oil, drag himself to his scooter and go to his neighbor's home for help, Kramer said.

Kramer said officers later spotted Jones in Quandt's Cadillac and pursued him, reaching speeds of up to 115 mph on U.S. 441. After weaving in and out of cars, Jones collided with two cars on 13th Street and was taken to Shands for treatment, Kramer said.

Jones is being tried on 10 charges, including first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, vehicle theft and fleeing from officers. State Attorney Bill Cervone and prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Jones, said Darry Lloyd, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office.

On Thursday, Judge Mark Moseley denied a request from Jones' defense attorney to acquit Jones. The attorney asked for the acquittal based on his contention that Jones and Martin had left Quandt beaten but alive and didn't plan to kill him, which the attorney based on Quandt's statement to his neighbor that the two assailants planned to return to his home if the ATM passwords Quandt gave them were incorrect.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Al Chipperfield said the defense had contacted Maranda Martin as a potential witness, but that she had declined to testify. She was convicted by a jury and sentenced last year to two consecutive terms of life in prison.

Travis Chaney, an EMT for Alachua County Fire Rescue, told the court on Thursday that when he arrived at the scene of the three-car crash on Jan. 9, he saw Jones unconscious and leaned up against an officer's leg.

While Jones was being taken to Shands, he didn't respond verbally, but later awakened and told Chaney his neck was hurting. Chaney also noted that sometimes people who have been involved in car crashes display these symptoms, not necessarily because they are drugged.

Investigators, detectives and latent print examiners with the Gainesville Police Department detailed the evidence they found in Quandt's home, in his white Cadillac and in Martin's car. The evidence was collected and sent to Florida Department of Law Enforcement labs.

Wendy Shirah, an investigator with the Gainesville Police Department, told the jury that she also collected Martin's diary from her car. In it, Martin wrote, "Gotta make another plan …Gotta get information on key … I want to do it really soon. He was home and I was still able to do it."

Shirah also said she did not find any blood in Martin's car, which Martin had used the night of Quandt's beating.

A crime lab analyst from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Jacksonville laboratory testified she was given several items to test and DNA samples from Quandt, Jones and Martin.

Quandt's blood was found on the interior front door panel of his Cadillac that Jones used to drive away, the handgun that prosecutors say fell from Jones' pants after he was arrested, and on Jones' gloves, pants and a boot.

The crime lab analyst said the frequency of finding blood in so many locations was one in 65 quadrillion.

Quandt's son, Paul Quandt Jr., said he was surprised Jones decided to testify, but not surprised by what Jones said.

"He's on trial for his life," Paul Quandt Jr. said. "He's doing and saying whatever he needs to do to save his life."

Paul Quandt Jr.'s wife, Beverly Quandt, said the whole trial has been grinding and emotionally exhausting.

Paul Quandt Jr. said he knows that just as his family is grieving, Jones' family is also heartbroken.

"They have told us that we're in their prayers," he said. "I lost my father and now they're potentially losing their son. It's a loss for them, too.

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