Trial begins for Naomi Jones’ alleged kidnapper, killer

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Naomi Jones’ mother Shantara Hurry became emotional on the witness stand Tuesday morning while in the presence of her daughter’s alleged killer. 

Robert Howard, 42, is on trial for the murder of the 12-year-old. Jones was found dead five days after she went missing from her family’s apartment in May 2017. 

Prosecutors say Howard is responsible for kidnapping Jones and murdering her — telling an Escambia County jury Tuesday they have evidence to prove it. 

“It’s in this interview, after multiple denials and changing his story, the defendant tells law enforcement how he choked Naomi to death, took her body and threw it over the bridge into the water,” said Assistant State Attorney Trey Myers during opening statements Tuesday. “You will get to watch this. You will get to see the defendant ask the detective did she still have the candy in her mouth.” 

The defense said prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to prove Howard guilty. 

“Your conscious will be your guide, and that’s what we ask you to do,” said Assistant Public Defender Spiro Kypreos. “Follow the law. Listen to the evidence. This is going to be emotional case.”

Prosecutors called more than a dozen witnesses Tuesday and have at least a dozen more before they rest their case. Several witnesses testified Tuesday they had seen Jones the day she went missing but not after about 1:30 p.m. 

Her mother last texted her around 1 p.m. May 31, 2017. 

“After 1 p.m. on May 31st, did you ever hear from Naomi again?” asked Assistant State Attorney Bridgette Jensen. 

“No ma‘ am,” Hurry said, emotions painted on her face. 

The trial continues Wednesday. Sometime this week, the jury is expected to see a three-hour video the prosecution considers Howard’s confession. 

We will continue to follow this trial and bring the you the latest updates. 

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