Trichell Jones: When Survivors Are Criminalized
An Oklahoma City woman is facing the possibility of life in prison after prosecutors say she shot and killed her boyfriend.
But the case has been severely compromised by allegations of interference by Oklahoma County district attorney David Prater.
Trishell Jones was a years-long victim of intimate partner domestic violence trapped in a cycle of abuse she says left her no other means of escape.
Jones was arrested on January 13, 2019 for shooting and killing her longtime boyfriend Quaylan Jeffers. Jones lived with Jeffers between 2006 and 2017 and she was finally leaving him after suffering years of documented abuse.
According to a KFOR-TV story from September 2019, Jones was only 22 years old when the relationship began. Jones told the station Jeffers was kind as long as he wasn’t drinking. But it wasn’t long before mental and eventually physical abuse became the overwhelming constant in the dynamic.
Two years into the relationship, Jeffers chased her throughout their home and Jones finally called police. She didn’t immediately realize he was stabbing her the entire time.
“First time I had ever called the police on him,” she told KFOR in 2019. “When I dialed 911 he was chasing me, and at the same time he was stabbing me and i didn’t realize it.”
According to her interview with KFOR, Jones says she was back in the house with Jeffers before her wounds had healed — a hallmark of traumatic abuse cycles.
Charges against Jeffers were dropped because Jones wouldn’t cooperate with the district attorney’s office.
“He saw that I wasn’t cooperating with police,” she told KFOR. “So he figured he had the upper hand on me.”
The abuse became more intense and frequent until she moved out a couple of years ago.
Jones took out a Protective Order against her abuser in August of 2017 referencing the knife attack and continued fear of his abuse. A year later, the order was dismissed by a judge in the summer of 2018.
After this tumultuous history, the two were still living seperately when Jeffers entered Ms. Jones’ garage. Reports are vague about what happened next.
Police arrived at the scene late on the evening of the January 19, 2019 and found Jones administering CPR to Jeffers, who had been shot.
Jones was booked into the Oklahoma County jail on one count of First Degree Murder, and one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. Since then, the complaint against Ms. Jones has been amended to show she is charged with Manslaughter.
As part of her defense strategy, Jones’ defense counsel retained Angela Beatty, Sr. Director of Domestic Violence Services at the YWCA-OKC, to provide expert testimony on Battered Women’s Syndrome (BWS).
Beatty is regularly retained by Oklahoma County prosecutors to provide expert testimony regarding BWS. According to court documents, Beatty submitted her expert findings to the Court in August 2020.
According to public transcripts of a suppression hearing held on April 5th, 2021, Jan Peery, Director of the YWCA-OKC testified that elected District Attorney David Prater attempted to prevent Ms. Beatty from testifying in the Jones case.
Defense Counsel: “As we sit here today, do you believe Mr. Prater was trying to prevent Ms. Beatty from testifying in this case?”
Jan Peery: “I think my term would be very much discouraged her from testifying, yes.”
According to the testimony, DA Prater made it clear to the CEO of the YWCA-OKC through a series of “irate” phone calls that he did not want her employee to testify against his office.
In Oklahoma, it is a felony to prevent a witness from attending court. This is also called “Witness Tampering.”
Peery also testified that someone from the DA’s office called her months later to investigate a case of “witness tampering” and wanted to know what had transpired during the phone calls with Prater.
It appears Prater has undertaken an investigation of himself through his own capacity as the District Attorney.
Jones’ defense team has filed a motion to disqualify Prater’s office from prosecuting the Jones case, but that still leaves questions unresolved. Who investigates the District Attorney for a felony? Typically, that would be the Attorney General, not the DA himself.
Tragically, Ms. Jones’ is one too many examples of so many victims of domestic violence whose cries for help went unheard until “something happened.”
Now, Ms. Jones faces charges for defending herself against years of domestic abuse. We can no longer use the excuse that we do not understand the cycle.