A Tulsa County jury needed just a few hours today to convict James Vasco Jones of felony murder in the June 2015 death of Chazz Holly, 27, of Talala.
The jury recommended a sentence of life in prison, which District Judge William Musseman imposed following a trial that began with jury selection Tuesday and ended with the start of jury deliberations at 11:10 a.m. today, said Tulsa County District Attorney spokeswoman Sally Van Schenck.
Jones, 44, will be given credit for time served.
A life sentence is calculated as lasting at least 45 years, Schenk said, and since felony murder is a so-called “85 percent” crime” Jones would not be eligible for his first hearing before the Pardon and Parole board for 35 years and 3 months, Schenk said.
The exact time he has served has not been calculated, she said.
Jail records obtained by the Leader show he was arrested and jailed in Texas on an Oklahoma warrant in the Holly case on Dec. 3, 2015, which would mean he has been in jail for one year and 117 days on this charge.
If that is the figure used in the final calculation, he would not be eligible for that first parole hearing—which does not provide any guarantee of early release—for roughly 33 years and 11 months, when he would be 74 years old.
Three other men involved in the case have already pleaded guilty or been found guilty, which brings legal proceedings to a close.
According to earlier testimony and voluminous court records, when law enforcement initially did nothing about the Chazz’s June 20 disappearance—even though he was seriously handicapped—his father Clay Holly arranged for a private investigation.
When officials wouldn’t search for Chazz’s body—which by then, it turned out, had been left dumped by a turnpike in broiling heat for almost a month—he organized a search party to find the remains July 19 after they walked 40 miles.
And when the first of four men charged with killing Chazz came to trial, he was first on the witness stand to make sure Vernon Lee-Montel Smith was convicted and got a life prison term.
That jury, like the Jones jury today, was out just two hours. That trial lasted four days.
Clay Holly, whose testimony is backed by voluminous court records, told in painstaking detail of how Smith first posed as being Chazz’s friend, then admitted getting him involved with three other men who were intent on stealing his father’s pickup and doing a drug deal.
Chazz was afflicted by Cerebral Palsy and delayed cognitive reasoning and could be easily befriended, friends and family say.
However Chazz realized something very bad was happening and tried to escape.
His companions tied him up and stuffed him in the back of the covered-bed pickup. They left him to suffer fatal trauma while they drove around Tulsa in sweltering heat seeking drugs and selling or pawning stolen tools.
Then they dumped his body near Antlers on the way to Texas.
Before the first trial, two of the remaining three suspects had made plea deals and turned state’s evidence, but Jones insisted on a trial.
It began at 9 a.m. Tuesday with jury selection, recessed and resumed at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with 10 witnesses. Jones did not testify.
Closing arguments began this morning after court was convened at 9 a.m. and the jury went out to begin deliberations at 11:10 a.m.
Jurors returned in the early afternoon with a verdict and prosecutors were back in their offices by mid-afternoon while Jones was headed back to his cell to await transport to the Department of Corrections.