Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stephens Says He Didn't Kill 3-Year-Old Boy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stephens Says He Didn't Kill 3-Year-Old Boy

Article excerpt

Jason Stephens, accused of killing a 3year-old boy, stunned a

Jacksonville courtroom yesterday when he pleaded guilty to

eight of 12 criminal charges, including armed kidnapping and

armed robbery.

But Stephens maintained he did not kill Robert Sparrow III.

Stephens and a co-defendant, Horace Cummings, were charged

with first-degree murder, armed kidnapping, six counts of armed

robbery, two counts of attempted armed robbery, burglary and

aggravated battery.

Stephens, 23, had earlier pleaded not guilty to all counts. But

yesterday, he pleaded guilty to every charge except murder and

three of the six armed robbery charges.

Cummings, 23, still faces all 12 charges.

Stephens' actions occurred just before jury selection began in

what prosecutors say will be a week-long trial.

Police said the two Jacksonville men, along with a third who

has not been identified, burst into the Logan Street home of

Robert Sparrow Jr. on June 2, looking for drugs and money.

Police said the men ransacked the home and robbed several

people before grabbing Robert Sparrow III by the neck and

telling the child's parents the boy was being taken "as

insurance."

The child was found dead hours later in a car. The Duval County

Medical Examiner ruled the child died of suffocation.

Stephens' attorney, Richard D. Nichols, said his client changed

his pleas because he had told Florida and Georgia law

enforcement officials and the media of his involvement in the

case.

But Stephens has always said he did not kill the boy and claims

he took nothing from three of the people in the home, Nichols

said.

"He has confessed to what he did," said Nichols, who doesn't

expect Stephens to be sentenced on the guilty pleas until the

conclusion of the murder trial. …

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