Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer
When three masked men beat 48-year-old Jack Jones to death in his Lake Asbury home in 1995 his wife became a suspect right away. Homicide investigators with the Clay County Sheriff's Office were even more convinced of her guilt when she hired a lawyer the next morning.
A year later their suspicions were confirmed when Linda Jones, 49, and three Orange Park men -- Donald Bradley and brothers Brian and Patrick McWhite -- were arrested and charged with murder in the bludgeoning death of her husband with fists and an African war club made of heavy wood.
"There was a lot of uniqueness to it," said Lt. Tom Waugh, the primary investigator on the case. "This was a real good murder-for-hire case."
It was such an intriguing case that New Dominion Pictures, a television production company in Virginia, sent a crew to Clay County on Feb. 26 to videotape a re-enactment of the crime in the same neighborhood where it occurred on the night of Nov. 7, 1995.
At first, it appeared to be a home-invasion robbery that turned into a homicide.
Linda Jones told police that three men wearing ski masks entered her home on Lake Asbury Drive as she and her husband watched TV. She said they tied her and her husband up with duct tape, then proceeded to ransack the place and eventually beat her husband to death.
Except for some pretty good circumstantial evidence, including a list of telephone calls that showed Jones and Bradley had several conversations on the evening leading up to her husband's murder, investigators had no solid clues.
Until Brian McWhite, 21, was identified by fingerprints found on a piece of duct tape that had been used to bind Linda Jones' hands the night of the assault.
"The fingerprints were what broke the case," Waugh said. "That was the biggie."
The murder was particularly grisly. The victim's bruised and bloody body was found on the living room floor. An autopsy revealed several skull fractures and broken ribs caused by repeated beatings with the butt of a gun and the club, which investigators said had been linked to a burglary and theft in Orange Park.
The club and bloody clothing worn by the killers were later incinerated in a barrel in an effort to destroy any physical evidence. But the telephone calls on the night of the crime and later McWhite's fingerprint were all authorities needed to win a conviction.
Investigators said Jones had paid Bradley $35,000 to do the job because her husband had been having an affair with a younger woman. Though she didn't deny that her husband had been seeing a younger woman for some time, she insisted she had nothing to do with his death.
McWhite and his brother Patrick, 18, also testified that Bradley had hired them to help beat Jack Jones up, but not to kill him. During the attack, they said, Bradley continued to viciously pound on Jones with the club until the victim was dead.
The McWhite brothers testified in court that Linda Jones had given them directions on how to get into the house, willingly stretched out her arms to be tied with duct tape and was cut free before they fled.
After a lengthy trial, Linda Jones was sentenced to life in prison in November 1997 and Donald Bradley received the death penalty. …