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Slain S. Utah mother and son remembered

Published February 23, 2011 1:37 pm

Double homicide • Woman had a spiritual drive to try to make the marriage work, family says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Michelle Jones was a sweet woman and a highly competent employee, but had a troubled life at home, her friends and family say.

"She was her best self in front of the client. She was elegant," said Jeremiah Wilson, founder of ContactPoint, the St. George business where Jones worked for seven years.

Jones called 911 at about 8:50 p.m. Friday night to say her husband had just shot her son, and now he was coming after her.

Then, the phone line went dead.

Washington City police arrived at the home to find the 42-year-old woman and her son, 19-year-old Owen Christopher Ellis, both dead of apparent gunshot wounds.

Officers found the alleged killer, Richard Andrew Jones, 46, in the garage suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head from a .45-caliber pistol.

On Sunday, prosecutors charged Jones with two counts of first-degree felony aggravated murder, which carries the potential for the death penalty.

Neighbors said it was known to some that Michelle and Richard Jones had their problems, some of which surrounded Ellis.

Cheryl Wahlgren, Michelle's mother, also knew there were problems, but said her daughter believed she was safe.

A Nevada resident, Wahlgren said Michelle had a spiritual drive to try to make the marriage work. "She was full of energy for anything she had passion for," she said.

Wahlgren added that her daughter tended to see the positive in people, until proven otherwise.

According to a probable cause statement filed in 5th District Court, Richard Jones — while being taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George — admitted to shooting his wife following an argument. But there is no mention in the statement of his stepson.

Richard Jones was later taken to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where officials reported Tuesday he was in critical condition.

Richard Jones had previously shown a temper, neighbors said, recalling an incident two years ago when Richard Jones supposedly put the furniture in the backyard and lit it on fire after Michelle Jones threatened to leave him.

Wilson, who is among the leading voices to mourn Michelle Jones' death, wished she had made other choices in her life. He said she had planned again to leave the marriage.

"I had told her to leave him many times," said Wilson.

Daren Ricks, a Las Vegas resident who was married to Michelle Jones for a year and a half starting in 1999, said she was a "beautiful" woman and that he was saddened to hear about the deaths, including her son.

He described Ellis as inheriting a trace of his mother's good looks and athletics.

"It was a pleasure to be his stepfather," said Ricks.

A memorial service, led by Wilson, is planned for mother and son Saturday in Washington City.

Bail for Richard Jones has been set at $250,000.

The expedited effort to file criminal charges Sunday was apparently prompted by the defendant's hospitalization out-of-state.

Washington City police Sgt. Vance Bithell wrote in the probable cause statement "a warrant is necessary to ensure [Jones'] return to the state of Utah to answer charges in this matter."

No court dates have been set.

shunt@sltrib.com