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Estranged partner of former Phoenix resident found guilty of second-degree murder

In the criminal court trial State of Arizona v. Jamal Lamar Jones, a 32-year-old defendant was found guilty of second-degree murder and the abandonment or concealment of a dead body. The state’s case, which closed on Oct. 9, 2023, relied upon evidence collected by the Phoenix Police Department. 

In late August 2019, 18-year-old Luzeia Mathis went missing, and unlawful conduct was suspected in her disappearance according to the Phoenix Police Department. Just a month later, neighbors who lived near Mathis’ residence reported a strong odor coming from inside Mathis' apartment. 

Law enforcement officials entered her apartment, and found it left as a potential crime scene, with cleaning products and garbage bags scattered around the floor. Her body was not found at the scene in her apartment, according to the Phoenix Police Department.

Despite efforts from the Phoenix Police Department and collaboration with the FBI, in addition to the family hiring private investigators there has been no trace of Luzeia to this day.

Jamal Lamar Jones, her estranged partner, became a suspect in the case and was charged on Nov. 26, 2019, a few months later, with second-degree murder and the abandonment and concealment of her body. In 2010 and 2018, he had been incarcerated for aggravated assault and burglary, according to Superior Court records.

In a trial with no physical body, the responsibility falls on the state to prove Jones committed the crimes by gathering evidence and witness testimony to convince the jury. 

The latest witness called to the stand on Sept. 27, was detective Jon Tuesink, the case agent from the Phoenix Police Department overseeing the investigation of Mathis’ disappearance. 

State attorneys Joshua Clark and Daniel Fisher verified Tuesink's testimony of the case through interviews and evidence collected that led investigators to suspect Jones. 

During cross-examination, defense attorney Kellie Sanford questioned Tuesink's credibility and the thoroughness of his process. Sanford emphasized that investigators and the state were having “tunnel vision” on one narrative: dismissing alternate possible killers or motives. 

In the closing argument, state’s attorney Clark emphasized: “There's no one else in this case. There's no other name that was uttered from everyone else's voice. It's not a mystery, it's the mundanity of evil.” 

In the rebuttal, defense attorney Sanford argued the limitations of the trial's extensive evidence: “After a six week trial… you still weren’t going to know what happened. …There are too many unanswered questions. And there are too many theories that weren't sewn up.”

Mathis’ family has been grieving since her disappearance. Her aunt created social media pages in her memory, with the latest post acknowledging the verdict, and providing some closure nearly four years later.

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