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Pinellas Prosecutors Drop First-Degree Murder Charges in 2014 Homicide

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A Clearwater man charged in the murder of a woman whose body was found near the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail was released on Friday after prosecutors dropped the charges against him.

Dewayne Jones, who turned 20 almost two months ago in the Pinellas County Jail, was charged with first-degree murder in the 2014 slaying of Lydia Ann Tross. Tross, who was 41 at the time of her passing, left her apartment on Highland Avenue on August 1, 2014 after a disagreement with Lawrence Staley, her boyfriend. Four days later her nude body was discovered by a man and his grandson collecting wildflowers near the Pinellas Trail north of Fairmont Street.

According to the arrest affidavit, her assailant inflicted "sharp force injuries to her neck and throat." The body was well into the decomposition process when it was discovered, and its identity was established when Staley, who reported her missing, identified her personal objects found in the ditch nearby.

According to Clearwater police, Jones encountered Tross at some point after sundown on August 5. They allege that he stole her purse, tore off her clothing, and inflicted the injuries later found on her corpse. After finding Tross's wallet, identification, and other personal effects in Jones's house, an unnamed family member informed authorities. Jones, who lived nearby and has prior convictions for burglary and vehicle theft, and a then-recent arrest for drug offenses, went with the family member to the police to return the wallet and was subsequently arrested and interviewed for nine hours. He allegedly made statements to the police that were both inconsistent and self-incriminating. According to his public defender, Jones found the wallet while he was walking along the trail.

Jones was booked into jail shortly after midnight on August 12 on charges of first-degree murder as well as two drug charges and resisting arrest without violence for actions alleged prior to the murder. He was held without bond until just before 5 o'clock Friday afternoon.

Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter told local media that "recent events" made it impossible to successfully prosecute a case against Jones. He indicated that a lack of evidence against Jones factored into the decision, and that dropping charges is not the result of an error. Slaughter said that the case remains open.

Bjorn Brunvand, a Florida Board Certified Criminal Attorney, has been representing individuals charged with murder in state and federal courts for almost a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area charges.

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