Willie Jones Jr. was found dead hanging from a tree in front of his girlfriend’s house on the night of February 8. While a preliminary investigation quickly ruled Jones’ death a suicide, the family adamantly refutes this narrative. They believe that law enforcement has conspired to cover up a murder and local activists are taking further action to get justice for the 21-year-old father.
On March 31, the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (NBPP) headed by Krystal Muhammad will be holding a vigil, memorial service, and town hall meeting starting at 12 noon. The gathering will take place at New Mount Calvary Church in Lake, Miss., to discuss the status of the seemingly-idle Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and FBI probe and to formulate a plan of action.
The NBPP has partnered with the victim’s parents, Tammie Townsend and Willie Jones Sr., to host the gathering. Extended family, friends, loved ones, local activists, and concerned citizens are expected to be in attendance.
According to a statement issued by the NBPP, no one present at the scene has been detained, questioned, or arrested in connection with Jones’ death. The involved parties include Jones’ girlfriend Alex Rankin, her mother Missy Rankin, Alex’s brother, and her stepfather. They are all Caucasian.
On the day Jones died, he and Alex had a confrontation at her place of employment when he arrived to pick up the baby they share for the day. Alex’s stepfather and Townsend were called by a mutual friend alerting them that the couple was fighting yet again. Alex’s stepfather came to the restaurant where she worked and reminded her of what he said he would do if he heard that she was fighting with that “nappy-headed thug” again.
Later that night while at his mother’s home, Jones argued with Alex on the phone shortly before she came to pick up the baby. Townsend watched her son put the baby in Rankin’s car and leave with her. Rankin’s brother and his girlfriend were also in the car.
Shortly thereafter, Townsend got a call from Alex’s mother saying that the couple was fighting. Townsend agreed to pick him up and left her home immediately. She placed a call to Alex while en route, but her brother’s girlfriend answered the phone. She told Townsend that everything had gone terribly wrong but didn’t elaborate. She was believed to be in shock after witnessing his murder.
By the time Townsend made it to the Rankin residence, Jones was already dead and hanging from the tree in front of the house near the street. She and Willie Jones Sr. were told by authorities and Alex’s brother’s girlfriend that their son had committed suicide.
The family believes that they are being stonewalled. They were not allowed to have any contact with his body at the crime scene nor were they allowed to ask anyone any questions. When they were finally allowed to see his body and take pictures at the funeral home, they saw signs of trauma including bruises, scratches, cuts, and what appeared to be cigarette burns. The Townsend-Jones family believes that Willie Jones Jr. was murdered and then hung from the tree to cover it up.
They are demanding justice.