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Mother up for parole: Family of slain 2-year-old argues against Jones’ release

Jul. 25—BLUEFIELD — A Mercer County woman who pleaded guilty last year to watching the deadly beating of her toddler and doing nothing to intervene will have a parole hearing next month.

Candice Dawn Jones, 34, and John Colan Powers, 49, both of Green Valley, were arrested in August 2018 following the death of Jones’ 2-year-old son, Joseph “JoJo” Garbosky III.

During a series of child abuse incidents, Powers reportedly body slammed the child into a bathtub, inflicted a third-degree burn on his arm and engaged in abuse that resulted in several broken bones, retinal hemorrhages, brain bleeds and subdural hematomas/blood clots. The child was not taken to the hospital for treatment until two weeks after the injuries occurred.

In October 2018, a Mercer County Grand Jury indicted Jones and Powers on charges including death of a child by parent or guardian by abuse, child neglect resulting in death, child neglect creating a substantial risk of bodily injury or death, child abuse resulting in injury and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.

Powers was also indicted on additional charges of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury.

Two years later, in October of 2020, Jones pleaded guilty to child neglect resulting in death in a deal accepted by former Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler. The crime carries a penalty of three to 15 years in prison, and she was given credit for time served.

Powers entered into a best-interest plea the same month, in which he pleaded guilty to death of a child by parent or guardian, which carries a possible sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. These charges have a possible sentence of two to 10 years in prison.

—-Jones’ father, David Hart, and step-mother, Angela Hart, told the Daily Telegraph on Friday that they do not want their daughter released on parole at this time.

The two said Jones does not appear to accept or acknowledge the consequences of her actions.

“She has not one time shown me any remorse,” David Hart said. “To me, I don’t think she even cares.”

Jones lived with her parents in North Carolina with Jojo and her then 8-year-old daughter until she met Powers online and moved to Mercer County to be with him.

Angela Hart said she feared something bad would happen to the toddler, who they called “Little Joe,” and even contacted authorities after they moved.

“I said he would be dead in six months. He was dead five months to the day,” Angela Hart said.

Since Jones’ arrest and imprisonment, the Harts said she has called a few times, but never expresses contrition over the chid’s death.

“Little Joe’s birthday was April 25 and we had a balloon release for him,” Angela Hart said. “She called on April 26 and didn’t even remember it was his birthday.”

—-Jones watched Powers physically abuse her son over a period of three to four weeks, according to court documents filed after the arrests by now-retired West Virginia State Police Sgt. M.D. Clemons, lead investigator on the case.

According to the criminal complaint, Jones said she came home from work one day and noticed the toddler’s arm was swollen. Powers told her he had jerked the child up by his arm after he fell out of their trailer door.

Jones told Clemons that Powers placed a heated MRE (meals ready to eat) on the boy’s arm to reduce the swelling. “Ms. Jones stated that she could tell it was burning (the child’s) skin but Mr. Powers continued to hold the MRE on his skin resulting in a third degree burn which they never sought medical treatment for,” according to the criminal complaint.

Later that day, Jones advised Clemons that she heard “a ruckus” in the bathroom where Powers was attempting to get the toddler to “poop in the potty chair.” Instead, the child defecated on himself.

“Ms. Jones stated that she observed Mr. Powers strike (the child) approximately there to four times on his bottom with a belt and put him in the bathtub,” Clemons stated in her complaint. “Ms. Jones further stated that Mr. Powers was extremely angry because (the child) was squirming and she observed him jerk him up by his arm and ‘slam’ him face-first on the floor. Ms. Jones advised that Mr. Powers then picked up (the child), struck him repeatedly in the face with an open hand, and continuously call him a ‘retard’ for not being able to use the potty.”

Jones then told Clemons that Powers grabbed the toddler “with both hands by the throat and the back of his head” and shook him violently for about three to five minutes.

During this incident, according to the complaint, the potty chair was knocked over and urine was spilled on the child’s legs, which again infuriated Powers.

Jones told Clemons that Powers began yelling that the toddler now needed another bath, “and she observed him pick (the child) up by both sides of his ribs and body-slam him into the tub. Ms. Jones advised that (the child) stood up, his knees buckled, and his body went limp.”

Upon questioning, Jones said she told Powers to “stop” several times during the abuse, but she did not physically intervene because she was “afraid of him.”

A neighbor who lived two trailers down from Jones and Powers later told the Daily Telegraph that Jones was frequently at their house without Powers.

“There were plenty of times when Candice (Jones) was here with the kids while John (Powers) was out walking,” Williams said. “She said she was scared of him, but I thought of all the times when he wasn’t around and she could have said something to me.”

—-Jones’ parole hearing is scheduled for August 9, Department of Corrections spokesman Lawrence Messina confirmed.

The Harts said family members are writing letters to the board requesting that parole be denied.

“She had all the means in the world to get that boy some help, and she turned her head,” David Hart said. “He was our grandson, and it still affects us to this day.

“She’s my daughter, and I love her, but right is right and wrong is wrong,” he added. “What she did was wrong. It tore my world apart.”

The Harts adopted Jones’ older daughter, their granddaughter, who is now 11. Jones was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth to a son while incarcerated. The Harts have adopted their grandson as well. He is now 2 and 1/2 years old.

Angela Hart said the children are doing very well, but the upcoming parole hearing has “ripped the band-aid” off for the family.

In a letter to the parole board, Jones’ biological daughter asked that she not be released.

“I think Candice should not get out because she hurt my lil’ brother and he was so innocent and sweet!” the child wrote. “With her in jail I have had a way better life without her abusing and causing trouble. She was a horrible mother and she should face her consequences and not get out!”

In her letter to the parole board, Angela Hart emphasized the family’s love for Lil Joe and their heartache over his death.

“Candice stood by and watched for weeks while this monster hurt Lil Joe so bad,” she wrote. “How could she stand by! A mother’s job is to protect her children at all times. Candice had ways out but refused to take them. Candice went to work and walked around the trailer and never said a word or asked for help.”

Crystle Hart, Jones’ sister, also wrote a letter to the parole board stating she did not want her sibling released, noting that the family will never again hear Lil’ Joe’s laugh or see his smile.

“I feel like justice has not been served and I feel very strongly that she should stay in prison where she belongs,” she wrote. “I want justice for ‘Lil Joe and three years is not justice for the death of any child including my nephew.”

Another sibling, Wanda Mann, described herself as “the former oldest sister of Candice Jones” in her letter to the parole board.

Mann wrote that releasing Jones would be “a mistake, as she has not learned her lesson. She still thinks to this day she did nothing wrong!”

“He didn’t deserve what happened to him, but she deserves every year the law requires!” Mann stated.

—-A offender search on the Department of Corrections website shows an August 10 parole hearing scheduled for Jones, but states her projected release date is Feb. 8, 2026.

The site shows Powers will have a parole hearing on Aug. 10, 2037. His projected release date was not available.

— Contact Samantha Perry at sperry@bdtonline.com

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