The girlfriend of a man accused in a Franklin County murder told a judge Thursday that she had watched, too frightened to intervene, as he fatally strangled 58-year-old William Kirk Odell inside Odell’s home last March.
Odell’s death was discovered days later after a relative reported someone had anonymously contacted him, according to search warrant documents, and said a woman was trying to sell Odell’s Dodge Durango and had told people that her boyfriend choked Odell.
Investigators charged Maurice Allen Jones, 37, of Roanoke with second-degree murder. His case came to court last Thursday for a preliminary hearing to determine if it would be allowed to advance to a grand jury.
Jessica Hiner, who hasn’t been charged in the death, testified that she and Jones had met Odell just a few days earlier and he had offered to let them stay with him in a camper he used in Boones Mill.
Their short friendship was dominated by the shared pursuit of drugs, she said. In the early morning hours before Odell died, she said she fell asleep after being up for several days straight.
Later, after the sun had risen, she awoke and said she was still sitting on the pullout couch bed when a dispute about money arose between the two men.
Jones began choking Odell with his hands, she testified, releasing him at one point but resuming when Odell continued breathing.
Afterward, Hiner said, he asked her to help him wipe down the camper. “I’m freaking out,” she said, but added she was scared as she said Jones had been violent with her at times before.
“So I did what he asked.”
Hiner was the only person called to testify during last Thursday’s hearing. More than a half-dozen of Odell’s family members watched the proceedings from the court gallery as she gave her account.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Jennifer Froeschl asked if there had been an argument some time earlier while the three were in Roanoke and if Jones had been left behind in the city by Odell and Hiner.
Hiner said there had been an argument but Jones wasn’t left behind. She said she had not been made any promises by authorities in exchange for testifying.
Hiner said she and Jones were no longer together, and had not been in a relationship since shortly after March.
General District Judge George Jones allowed the case to be sent to a grand jury for review. That panel will determine if the allegations can be heard in Circuit Court.
Franklin County convened its next grand jury Monday. Jones, who didn’t address the court, remains held in jail without bond. His middle name is sometimes spelled as Alen in court records.