The murder conviction of Alan Jones, who was accused of killing his stepsister Erin Maxwell in 2008, has been reduced to a lesser charge by a State Appellate Division Panel in Rochester.
In an decision handed down Friday morning, the panel said the November 2009 decision of Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner, Jr. was unanimously reduced from second degree murder to second degree manslaughter, and the sentence is to be vacated.
According to the panel, "...the evidence at trial established that defendant (Jones) did not abandon the victim and, instead, demonstrated that defendant called 911 regarding the victim's asphyxiation, administered CPR and was present at the scene when the authorities arrived." They also stated that "...the evidence did not establish that the defendant "engaged in torture or a brutal, prolonged and ultimately fatal course of conduct against a particularly vulnerable victim."
The case will now be returned to Oswego County Court for resentencing for the manslaughter conviction. Jones is currently serving 25 years to life in prison pending the new sentence. The second degree murder charge carries a maximum penalty of 5 to 15 years in state prison.
Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes issued a statement on the decision, saying he is "saddened" by the panel's decision to reduce the conviction, and says he believes Jones deserves the 25 years to life sentence. "The court's decision affirms the jury's finding that Jones caused Erin's death" said Oakes. "He committed a wicked and horrendous act against an innocent child, and he deserves to spend the rest of his life in a cell."
Oakes says he will try to appeal the case to the Court of Appeals, and have the murder conviction reinstated.
The 11-year-old Maxwell's death sent a shockwave through the community. Police say she was forced to live in a Palermo home full of garbage, animals and feces, and was often locked in a caged-in room. The girl's parents, Lynn and Lindsay Maxwell, were convicted of separate counts of endangering the welfare of a child and spent nearly two years in jail.
(Information from CNY Central's Jim Kenyon and Maren Guse was used in this story.)