On Aug. 12, 2014, Clearwater Police charged then 18-year-old Xavier Jones in the slaying of the woman whose body was found adjacent to the Pinellas Trail.
Detectives charged Jones for the death of Lydia Ann Tross, 41. Her body was found north of Fairmont Street. At the time, investigators said robbery was the apparent motive. Tross’ wallet and identification were found in Jones’ home. His attorneys argued that he found it walking the trail and picked them up to be a Good Samaritan. A family member tipped police off about the items, and that ultimately led to Jones’ arrest and two year incarceration.
On Friday, at 4:41 p.m., Jones walked out of the Pinellas County Jail to a media frenzy. Jones would not comment on the case and said he “just wanted to go home.”
According to Jones’ public defender, Jessica Manuele, a judge dismissed the charges after a motion to suppress his interview with police was granted. Manuel said his confession was “coerced.” The state had no other evidence, so the prosecution is reportedly letting the charge go.
Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter released this statement to ABC Action News following Jones’ release:
Investigators will continue seeking justice on behalf of the victim and her family and friends. The detectives who worked this case did not make any egregious errors and made a good faith effort to interview the suspect in compliance with proper criminal procedure. There are elements which are subject to interpretation of the court. We know that, respect that, and respect the decisions of our courts.
Wanda Bonney, Jones’ aunt, said they can scratch one name off of their list.
“It ain’t Xavier Jones,” Bonney said. “He never did it, never ever in Jesus name. He didn't do it.”
Tross’ body was so badly decomposed, it was hard to determined whether the official cause of death, blunt force with a sharp object to her neck, was caused post or pre-mortem. Manuele said they had serious doubts about whether this case was actually ever a homicide, because the injuries could have been caused by an animal on the Pinellas Trail.