Every day, Richie Jefferson thinks about his sister, 38-year-old Janina Jefferson, who was shot to death one year ago at the town of Appalachia water plant.
“It’s been hard on me,” Jefferson said.
He and his older sister were close.
“She was like a mother to me,” he said during a recent interview leading up to the one-year anniversary of her death on Nov. 27, 2016. “We were really, really close.”
Meanwhile, the man charged with capital murder in her death, her ex-husband, Eric Monroe Jones, 46, remains at large. The Wise County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Marshals Service have spent the last year searching for Jones, who has not been seen since.
Sheriff’s Office Col. Grant Kilgore said police are doing everything possible to locate and apprehend Jones. A $5,000 reward has been set for any information leading to the Jones’ arrest and conviction.
“We continue to follow every lead and piece of information we receive,” Kilgore said.
Richie Jefferson said he visited his sister the night of her death.
“I just went to check on her,” he said. “I was there less than an hour before it happened.”
The family had been concerned for Jefferson’s safety. Court records reveal Jones was previously charged in a domestic violence case against Jefferson. She had even placed an order of protection against him.
Before leaving that night, Jefferson recalls telling his sister that he loved her.
“Every time I left, we always told each other that we loved one another,” he said.
Jefferson left the water plant between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m.
Later, the Wise County Sheriff’s Office received a request to conduct a welfare check on Janina Jefferson, who worked the evening shift. When they arrived, officers found her body on the gravel driveway.
Richie Jefferson recalls receiving a phone call that something had happened at the water plant. He returned to the plant and discovered a number of police officers at the scene.
His sister was dead from multiple gunshot wounds, police said.
“We kind of knew it was going to happen,” the man said.
The year before her death, Janina Jefferson and Jones went through divorce proceedings. Wise County Circuit Court issued a final decree of divorce on Sept. 8, 2016, the same day Jones was charged in a domestic violence case, which listed Jefferson as the victim, according to court records. They were married in August 2013 and lived in Big Stone Gap, the document states. The couple separated in 2015.
In the domestic violence case, Jones was charged with assault and battery of a family member, strangulation and trespassing. The case is pending court proceedings.
A protective order had been in place against Jones and the man was on unsupervised probation from a previous attempted murder-for-hire case, records reveal.
In early November, the case was featured on “Crime Watch Daily,” a nationally broadcast show. One of the show’s reporters visited Wise County to speak with police, friends and family.
“[Jones is] out there walking free while this family suffers,” Investigator Charles Curry said on “Crime Watch Daily.”
Kilgore described Jones as charismatic. He got along with everyone from gang members to church members, he said. Jones is the son of a pastor in Big Stone Gap.
Richie Jefferson said his sister’s three children are doing well, under the circumstances.
“I do have closure,” the woman’s oldest son, Trey Lomax, told “Crime Watch Daily.” “I don’t let it eat at me every day just because I know that she’s in a better place.”
Earlier this year, authorities charged Jacob Seth Rowland as an accessory in the case. He is accused of dropping Jones off at the water plant, according to a criminal complaint. Rowland’s next court hearing is scheduled for April 8.
Wise County Sheriff Ronnie Oakes said police will charge anyone who helps Jones.
This isn’t the first time Jones has avoided apprehension. In 1990, he was arrested in Texas after fleeing from police in Wise County when he was wanted on attempted murder charges. In that case, court records show Jones was hired to murder a woman and her children. Emergency responders saved the family from a fire that Jones and an accomplice were accused of setting, records state.
Jones apparently fled to Mexico, but was captured when he started driving back through Texas.
Jefferson’s brother said he believes Jones has returned to Mexico, but he couldn’t answer when asked if he thought Jones would ever be captured.
Jones should be considered armed and dangerous, police said. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 276-328-3566, a local police agency or 911.