Jones convicted of murder in Quandt's death

Austin Jones enters the courtroom his murder trial of Paul Quandt, 78, in courtroom 3A of the Alachua County Criminal Justice Building Friday, February 14, 2014. Quandt, 78, was beaten to death in a home invasion robbery on January 9, 2012.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 at 7:34 p.m.

The suspect in the killing of a 78-year-old disabled veteran in a home-invasion robbery was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder.

Austin Mark Jones, 24, was found guilty in the murder of Paul Quandt by a 12-person jury after four hours of deliberation at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse. Jones also was found guilty on nine other counts, including home-invasion robbery, kidnapping, vehicle theft and fleeing from officials.

Jones and his cousin Maranda Martin broke into Quandt's Blues Creek home on Jan. 9, 2012, and severely beat and kicked Quandt, leaving him bloody from head to toe, Assistant State Attorney Brian Kramer said. Martin, who had been one of Quandt's caretakers, had planned for several months to rob the older man and had written about it in her diary.

The cousins then took Quandt's valuables and loaded them into Quandt's white Cadillac. The two then bound the older man with duct tape and drove away in his Cadillac, Kramer said.

Quandt used cooking oil to free himself and dragged himself to his scooter to go to his neighbor's home for help, Kramer said. After Quandt alerted officials, they found Jones still in the area and began to pursue him.

After a chase that reached speeds of 115 mph, Jones crashed into two vehicles on Southwest 13th Street and was taken to UF Health Shands Hospital. Maranda Martin made it to her mother's home in Fort White before Gainesville Police came looking for her the morning of Jan. 10, 2012.

Quandt would die from his injuries a week after the brutal beating.

Doctors who testified said when Quandt arrived at the hospital, he had multiple fractures on his face, and cuts and bruises all over his body. His brain, which was swelling, had started to push itself down into his spinal cord.

Autopsy pictures showed deep, purple bruises on Quandt's face, head, chin, the right side of his neck and right side of his body. The medical examiner compared the injuries to those received from a car crash or a fall from a large height.

Maranda Martin was convicted by a jury and sentenced last year to two consecutive life terms in prison.

In Thursday's testimony, Jones told the jury he had killed Quandt. Forensic evidence showed Jones had Quandt's blood on his clothes, but Jones said he has no recollection of the bloody night.

Jones said his last memory of that day was snorting Klonopin, a drug that can be used as an antidepressant, with Maranda Martin. He said he remembers waking up in the hospital in pain.

In his closing statement on Friday, Kramer emphasized to jurors that Jones had already confessed to killing Paul Quandt. His lack of memory neither meant anything legally nor did it negate guilt, Kramer said.

Kramer compared Jones' crime to driving while under the influence or sexually battering someone while drunk. Anyone with common sense would punish the two crimes regardless of the suspect's memory or whether the suspect was intoxicated, Kramer said.

"Mr. Jones said he was intoxicated, but he can drive quite well as you saw in the video," Kramer said. "He can kill even better. This was profoundly well done."

Jones' defense declined to make a closing statement.

Judge Mark Moseley scheduled a hearing for Jones' sentencing on Feb. 25. State Attorney Bill Cervone and prosecutors are planning to seek the death penalty for Jones during sentencing, said Darry Lloyd, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office.

When Jones heard the verdict by the jury, he turned to look at his father, Randy Jones, and grimaced but showed no other emotion. At the end of the trial, Randy Jones and Austin Jones' stepsister Kaylee Hampson seemed calm.

"It was a just verdict, but it's a loss all the way around for both families," Randy Jones said.

Hampson said the Quandt family is still in their prayers.

"We feel for the Quandt family so much. We love Austin very much, but …" she said, shrugging at the end.

When the jury asked on Friday to hear the 911 tape where Quandt is incoherent in the background as his neighbor calls for help, several people in the Quandt family wiped away tears.

For them, hearing the last words of their family member in pain is harder than viewing the gruesome photos, Quandt's son, Paul Quandt Jr., said.

"It's been the last words we've heard him speak," Paul Quandt Jr. said. "The more times I hear it, the harder it gets."

For Paul Quandt Jr., the hardest part of the ordeal is not being able to pick up the phone and call his father, maybe even lovingly fuss at him every once in a while. The family said it will not rest until Jones is punished and brought to justice for his crime.

"He may have died, but he beat them both," Paul Quandt Jr. said of his father. "Without his determination, they would have never been caught and we wouldn't know who killed him. How does it feel to be beat by a 78-year-old disabled man?"

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