Yearning boy, troubled man

Melvin Jones admits he was drawn to kids

A boy who was lacking a father, a sex offender who befriended him

August 06, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

Melvin Lorenzo Jones Jr. is a man who understands his compulsions.

He has described himself as a "borderline pedophile" and asked police at least twice for help. And in an August 2001 interview with Baltimore police, he worried aloud that his behavior would turn violent.

"I hate being this way, I really, I really do, I hate living like this. I mean this is the truth coming out, I hate living like this, you know," he said in the police interview, according to a transcript obtained by The Sun.

"I don't want nothing to, I guess, occur anymore, or to say if it did lead to violence, which I don't [know] that it would. ... I'm asking for help from somebody. 'Cause I'm tired of going through this."

Now that he is accused in the stabbing death of an 11-year-old, his warning from years ago seems all the more haunting.

Jones was charged last week with first-degree murder in the death of a boy whose family he had befriended. Irvin J. Harris disappeared last Friday with Jones, and the boy's body was found overnight Sunday in Northeast Baltimore's Belair-Edison neighborhood.

The portrait of Jones, a 52-year-old registered sex offender who had lived with his mother, that emerges through old police reports, charging documents and court records is one of a man who took advantage of the children around him, even though he knew it was wrong.

A thin, 6-foot-tall man with wire-rim glasses and a neat goatee, Jones kept his head down and said, "No comment" on Monday, as he was led from police headquarters to a van to take him to jail. His attorney, Bridget Duffy Shepherd, warned: "Don't jump to conclusions based on what you hear from the state's attorney and the police."

According to charging documents, Jones gave police a statement "implicating himself in the homicide." The documents also state that he called his daughter and Irvin's sister to let them know where to find the boy's body.

Police said they have not found evidence that Irvin had been molested. But Jones had a lengthy relationship with the boy, baby-sitting him and taking him on outings. Shortly before the boy disappeared, Jones sent Irvin a text-message on his cell phone saying, "I love you," Irvin's mother said.

Early case dismissed

Jones never received the help he had asked for in that August 2001 police interview. In fact, he told detectives then that the only treatment he'd ever had was six months of court-ordered group therapy in the early 1990s. Jones' assessment: "It didn't work."

For a time Jones' family lived in the 700 block of W. Fayette St. That's where he met the little girl who may have been his first victim.

In July 1970, a mother came home to her apartment to find her 5-year-old daughter with her underpants off and a 16-year-old neighbor with his pants unzipped. That neighbor, according to the police report, was Melvin Jones.

The mother asked Jones why he would do such a thing, and he replied that "he had simply gotten the urge," according to the report.

Although Jones was charged with attempted rape, a judge dismissed the case, prosecutors said. Laws in Maryland make it particularly difficult to prosecute sexual child abuse cases with young children, said Julie Drake, head of the city state's attorney's felony family abuse unit.

Jones graduated from high school, he said in a police interview, but he didn't say which one. He is the father of at least two daughters.

Jones' criminal record shows convictions in 1988 for battery and 1989 for harassment.

Then in September 1989, a 4-year-old girl whispered to her mother as she was being tucked into bed that a relative had been touching her, a police report states. The mother called police, and later that month, a detective interviewed Jones.

At first, Jones told the detective that he sometimes bathed the girl and that she must have mistaken that for inappropriate behavior. The detective pushed. Then Jones admitted, she "wasn't lying, he did fondle her," the police report states.

"At the end of the interview, Mr. Jones stated that he really hated that he hurt his [relative] and brought disgrace to his family," according to the police report. "He stated he didn't believe he would do anything like that again but he really wanted to get psychiatric help."

Jones was charged with second-degree sex offense and sexual child abuse. He pleaded guilty in 1990 to the abuse charge and was sentenced to seven years, with all but seven months and seven days suspended, and five years of probation.

The judge ordered Jones into group therapy. Jones said in the August 2001 police interview that he attended a "sex therapy group" for six months in the early 1990s at the Walter P. Carter mental health center downtown.

"It was no help," he later told a detective. "That's the only help that I got, the only help that I got."

Over most of the past 15 years, Jones has lived with his mother, who has health problems, in a modest brick rowhouse she rents in the 3500 block of Old Frederick Road in Southwest Baltimore.

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