Tuesday, November 21, 2017 Elyria 40°


Peter Jones hangs himself same day coroner rules Jesse Crum Jr.'s death wasn't homicide


AMHERST — Peter Jones, who had been awaiting sentencing on endangering children charges for last year’s scalding of Jesse Crum Jr. — the same toddler who died March 17 from head injuries — committed suicide Tuesday, according to Amherst police.

Jones, 23, was found by his mother, Teresa Jones, at 12:29 a.m. in the Forest Hill Drive home where he lived with his parents, Amherst police Lt. Joseph Kucirek wrote in a news release.

Teresa Jones, who was home alone with her son, called 911 and told a dispatcher that she had found her son hanging in his bedroom and had cut him down.

“I just cut the rope, he’s not moving,” she can be heard saying on the 911 call.

Although she told dispatchers that her son was cold, wasn’t breathing and had blue lips, she tried to administer CPR until police officers arrived a few minutes later. During the call, Teresa Jones can be heard sobbing quietly as she tries to save her son’s life.

Kucirek said in the news release that Peter Jones was taken to Amherst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Lorain County Coroner Paul Matus said he has ruled Peter Jones’ death a suicide. He also said that Peter Jones didn’t leave a suicide note.

The suicide came just 12 hours before Jones’ attorney, Donald Tittle, picked up the autopsy report from the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office that he said would have helped exonerate his client of responsibility for the death of Jesse Crum Jr., the son of Peter Jones’ girlfriend, Alyson Sweany.

“I told him the report was coming down today, and I thought it would probably be favorable,” Tittle said.

The report didn’t rule Jesse’s death a homicide or an accident, instead saying the 3-yearold had died of “violence of undetermined origin,” Tittle said.

The report also said that Jesse had suffered recent blunt head trauma and brain hemorrhages and had pneumonia when he died, Tittle said.

Jesse was flown to Metro-Health Medical Center in Cleveland on March 12 after he began acting strangely. Tittle and Jesse’s maternal grandmother have said that the boy was injured when a laptop fell on his head several days earlier while he was climbing a bookcase in the Forest Hill home.

Tittle said Jesse never told anyone about the bookcase incident until at least a day after it happened because he was afraid he would get in trouble. There was no cause for immediate concern, he said.

“He was running around the park, playing with ducks,” Tittle said.

The stress of Jesse’s death and public suspicion that he was somehow responsible may have pushed Jones to suicide, Tittle said. Someone used spray paint to scrawl “baby killer” on his parents’ home less than a week after Jesse was removed from life support and died.

“It’s just a tragic accident, and the kid just couldn’t live under the pressure,” Tittle said. No one has been charged in connection with Jesse’s death and Kucirek said the case — launched after Lorain County Children Services notified Amherst police of Jesse’s ultimately fatal injuries — remains under investigation. Charges against Peter Jones’ parents, Dallas and Teresa Jones, stemming from marijuana plants found by police during a search of the house were dropped earlier this year.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the coroner’s report is just one piece of evidence gathered during the investigation and the results don’t necessarily mean that Jesse’s death was accidental.

“We look at the total package of all the evidence we have in conjunction with the autopsy report,” Will said.

Jones was due back in court Monday on the endangering children charges stemming from the Jan. 5, 2009, scalding of Jesse after he put the boy in a bathtub filled with hot water. Court documents indicate that Jones didn’t immediately seek medical treatment for the then 2-year-old boy, who had second- degree burns on his left leg, thighs, buttocks and lower back.

Instead, the documents said, he waited until Sweany returned home and she took him to Amherst Hospital. Jesse was later taken by helicopter to MetroHealth, where he was hospitalized for the scalding burns.

Tittle said that although Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering children in that case, his client didn’t intentionally scald the boy. He said the hot water in the house was turned up to 170 degrees, and Jones became distracted turning off the dishwasher and by a knock on the door after putting Jesse in the tub.

He said he believed that Jones feared he would go to prison when he was sentenced in the scalding case on Monday.

Jones had also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace charges in Oberlin Municipal Court earlier this month. Those charges stemmed from a drunken shouting match with Sweany outside his parents’ Forest Hill home in May. Amherst police said they believed the couple was arguing over financial issues.

Jones was fined and ordered to perform community service in that case.

Sweany — who is still facing charges from the May incident and domestic violence charges for an April argument in which she allegedly struck Jones — was informed of Jones’ death about 3:30 a.m. at her residence, Kucirek said in the news release.

The couple had one infant son together, who was placed in foster care by Lorain County Children Services after Jesse was injured in March.

Tittle said he believes that boy should now be returned to his mother.

Jones family could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

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