NATICK (CBS) – A man who was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole for the killing of Gloucester man as a teen will now be paroled.
When he was 17, John Jones, and a 16-year-old friend robbed Donald Pinkham, of Gloucester. Pinkham was then hit in the head with rocks and set on fire in the early hours of Oct. 1, 1982.
According to court records, Jones and his accomplice went to the house of a friend after the incident covered in blood, where the three discussed the murder. On the advice of the friend, the next day, Jones led police to Pinkham’s body.
The accomplice was convicted of first-degree murder and committed until his 18th birthday. Jones was sentenced to life without parole.
In 2013, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that sentences of life without parole are invalid in cases of juveniles. Jones applied for, and was denied, parole in 2015.
Jones, now 53, admitted he was responsible for Pinkham’s murder and said he had been drinking and taking pills the night of the murder. Jones said that he was often the victim of domestic violence at home and according to the parole board’s decision, “Mr. Jones explained that on the night of the murder, he agreed to commit the crimes against Mr. Pinkham with his co-defendant, in part, because he dreaded returning home.”
Jones said during the hearing that the death of his brother motivated him to get sober in 1993. He has not had a discipline report since 1994.
Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett opposed the parole, stating in a letter to the Parole, “As set forth in the District Attorney’s 2015 letter in opposition, the facts of the murder are egregious and demonstrate both planning and uncommon cruelty: Jones (‘the defendant’) and his 16-year-old co-defendant (‘the juvenile’) planned to rob Mr. Pinkham of his money and to kill him if he did not have any. What followed was the extended and wholly gratuitous torture, rape, and burning alive of Mr. Pinkham.”
Blodgett said that Pinkham’s family also opposed Jones’s parole.
Blodgett also cited the board’s unanimous decision to deny Jones parole in 2015. “Three years ago, the Board denied parole on a unanimous vote, concluding that the defendant ‘was not yet rehabilitated, and his release is not compatible with the welfare of society,’…”
Blodgett also wrote, “The defendant has availed himself of programming in these three intervening years and has worked on a release plan. But the terrible facts of the case, the defendant’s lack of credibility on key issues, and the relatively short period of his alleged reform as compared with his whole term of incarceration weigh strongly against parole release.”
Blodgett had no comment on the Parole Board’s decision.
Jones must stay in a pre-release program or a minimum security prison for a year prior to his release. He has been accepted to a residential facility and told the parole board that he has a job offer from a construction company upon his release.
Conditions for Jones’s parole include being home from 10 p.m.-6 a.m., drug and liquor abstinence and reporting to his parole officer the day he is released from the residential facility. He must also have no contact with Pinkham’s family, to whom he has apologized.
“The Board is of the opinion that Mr. Jones has demonstrated a level of rehabilitation that would make his release compatible with the welfare of society,” the Parole Board said in its decision.