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Hamilton County judge grants new trial to death row inmate convicted of Blue Ash murder

Death row inmate, Elwood Jones, granted new trial for woman's Blue Ash murder in 1994 (WKRC)
Death row inmate, Elwood Jones, granted new trial for woman's Blue Ash murder in 1994 (WKRC)
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CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A local man who spent 25 years on death row will get a new trial, a Hamilton County judge ruled Tuesday.

Elwood Jones was convicted in the beating death of Rhoda Nathan at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Blue Ash in 1994. Nathan was visiting from New Jersey at the time.

Judge Wende Cross wrote in Tuesday's ruling that prosecutors withheld evidence from Jones' lawyers during his 1996 trial that could have exonerated him.

She cited nearly 4,000 pages of witness statements, police investigative notes and questionnaires, some of which she said appeared to point to the possibility of suspects other than Jones.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who held the same post during Jones' trial, responded to the court's decision at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Local 12 asked Deters about the pages of evidence the court claims were not handed over.

"So, they weren’t handed over, but your position is they didn’t need to be?" Local 12 asked.

“They were not relevant," Deters replied. "The rules – let me be perfectly candid with you: the rules have changed in 28 years. This happened today, we’d give them the entire investigative file. Back then, we relied on Blue Ash [Police Department] to say, ‘This was relevant.’”

Cross also pointed to a blood test that shows Nathan tested positive for Hepatitis B and that Jones did not.

“Jones would have Hepatitis B if what the state says took place had in fact occurred," Cross said.

Cross claims prosecutors withheld the blood test from Jones' lawyers but Deters insists that the blood test was disclosed.

Defense attorneys also say there is new evidence that points to another suspect.

Linda Reed allegedly told a fellow inmate at the Hamilton County Jail that her husband, Earl Reed, confessed to killing Nathan.

That witness testified this week that she called Blue Ash police after leaving jail and they dismissed her report.

A retired police captain said during a hearing that his department never received that call.

New information from the defense about a white and a Black man leaving Nathan's room with the white man running away, master keys that were unaccounted for that police did not investigate, and information about a pendant found in Jones' vehicle reportedly belonging to the victim were also key in getting Jones a new trial.

Jones' family said they have been fighting for 27 years for him.

"Justice was served today. We have lost family members that wanted to see this day, but now we're going to see it for them. Justice was finally served, God is good. He never did it, he should have never been in there. Can't get the life he missed because his mother's not here, his sisters but we're going to celebrate because it's a done deal now," said nephew Julius Jones.

Defense attorney David Hine said his team is looking forward to taking this to trial again and presenting evidence a jury has not seen before.

"We're over the moon. The decision was everything Elwood has been dreaming of and has been dreaming about for the last 28 years. He's been in prison for a crime he didn't commit for nearly three decades and he was vindicated today."

Jones was initially set to be executed in 2019. It was then delayed to 2023.

Prosecutor Joe Deters said before the hearing that it was playing to the court of public opinion. He said Jones' arguments are legally baseless and plans to appeal the court's decision.

Jones was being held at a prison in Chillicothe prior to Tuesday's court hearing. He is now being held at the Hamilton County Jail.

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He is set to appear before a judge on January 12 at which time bail could be set.

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