Man gets life without parole in beating death of 78-year-old

Austin Mark Jones, 24, is fingerprinted in a Gainesville courtroom after being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Paul Quandt, 78.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 3:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:49 p.m.

A man convicted of fatally beating a 78-year-old man in a 2012 home-invasion robbery was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After an hour of deliberation, a 12-person jury recommended to Judge Mark Moseley that Austin Mark Jones, 24, serve a life sentence instead of the death penalty, which the State Attorney's Office was seeking.

Jones was found guilty two weeks ago at the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse of first-degree murder in the brutal death of Paul Quandt. Jones was also convicted of home-invasion robbery, kidnapping and vehicle theft.

On Friday, Judge Moseley told Jones that he hoped in the years to come, there would be some redemption for him while he is incarcerated.

“You should never leave prison,” the judge said. “For that to happen would be a fraud to the people of the state of Florida.”

Austin Jones' last words during the proceedings were directed at Quandt's son, Paul Quandt Jr.

“Mr. Quandt, I'm sorry,” he said. “I'm really sorry.”

He mouthed “I love you” three times to his family as the guards fingerprinted him.

On Jan. 9, 2012, authorities said Jones and his cousin Maranda Martin drove from Fort White to

Paul Quandt's Blues Creek home in Gainesville. Martin had been one of Quandt's caretakers and for several months wrote in her diary of her plans to rob the older man.

The cousins broke into Quandt's home and severely beat and kicked Quandt until he was bloody from head to toe. They used duct tape to restrain Quandt as they loaded Quandt's valuables into the Quandt's white Cadillac and drove away.

After escaping from his bonds, the disabled Quandt dragged himself to his scooter and went to his neighbor's home for help.

Officials found Jones in Quandt's Cadillac near the Blues Creek home and began pursuing him in a high-speed chase. 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. She was convicted last year and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison.

When Quandt arrived at Shands, he had multiple fractures, cuts and bruises all over his body. His swelling brain had pushed itself down into his spinal cord.

The medical examiner compared Quandt's injuries to those received from a car crash or a fall from a large height. Quandt died from his injuries a week after the brutal beating.

In his closing argument, State Attorney Bill Cervone argued that Jones inflicted unnecessary torture on the disabled Quandt. Cervone played the 911 call that Quandt's neighbor made so jurors could hear the voice of a man who was already dying.

“What did they want,” jurors heard Quandt's neighbor ask.

“Everything,” Quandt said.

The Quandt family held back tears as they heard their relative's last words.

“They took everything, including his life,” Cervone said.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Al Chipperfield outlined Maranda Martin's extensive involvement in the crime and argued that Jones was manipulated by his cousin because he loved her.

“Equally involved people in a crime should be punished equally,” he said. “Maranda Martin got a life sentence. Should they be punished the same?”

Paul Quandt Jr. said he was content with the decision but still shaky.

“I feel that justice was done and everyone here did their job,” he said. “It is what it is. We're shaken, but we'll be OK.”

Thea Gargulak, one of Quandt's daughters, said she did not get what she wanted in the trial.

“We can't get what we really want,” she said. “We can't bring Dad back.”

Jones' mother, Sherry Richards, 44, said she asks God every day for forgiveness for her actions and what her son did to Paul Quandt. During the penalty phase, she testified that she sold and used drugs in front of the children and had people at her house who used drugs and watched porn while Jones and his siblings watched.

She's been clean of drugs for two years and has apologized to the people she sold drugs to, she said.

Her 15-year-old daughter Megan testified during the proceedings that all her good memories of her childhood were with Jones. Jones cried as she told the court about the promise she had made him to graduate from high school and go to college.

Richards said she knows she wasn't a good mother to Jones, but said she's trying to be a better mom with Megan. She said she calls her son several times a week at the jail to tell him about his young son, Odin.

“I love him. I love him,” Richards whispered into her friend's shoulder as tears fell down her face. “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top