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Janeene Jones was a con artist and a thief, but when her scamming ways caught up to her, she refused to admit defeat. Instead, she plotted murder.
Born Janeene Lea Monsell in Tawas City, Michigan, she grew up in a military family and moved often. By 1991, Janeene was a twice-divorced single mother with a young son living in North Port, Florida. It was there she met Max Jones, a musician and builder. Their relationship moved fast, and they were married that October. They had two children, son Zak and daughter Alexandria.
While Max had steady construction work, Janeene bounced between jobs. In 1997, Janeene found a position as a corrections officer at the Charlotte County Jail, but it exploded in shocking fashion: She had an affair with an inmate named Christopher Proper, the Charlotte Sun newspaper reported in 2013.
The incident almost ended the Joneses' marriage, but they stuck it out for the sake of their kids. Financial pressures were a constant worry, though.
“It was living paycheck to paycheck and it was very stressful,” daughter Alexandria Jones told Oxygen’s “Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Things took a turn for the worse when Max began suffering from severe stomach problems in 2011, resulting in substantial weight loss and multiple hospitalizations. Doctors were unable to diagnose what was wrong with him. He died of a heart attack at the age of 52 on Nov. 27, 2011.
“I saw them covering the body up and my heart just kind of sunk and I started thinking, ‘OK, why all of the sudden did my dad die of a heart attack when he never really had heart issues to begin with?" Zak told producers.
Alexandria Jones, meanwhile, said her mother’s behavior on the day her father died “wasn’t normal.”
“There wasn’t a single tear in her eye,” Alexandria told producers. “To this day I feel that, like, I still have unanswered questions.”
Janeene’s actions following Max’s death provoked further suspicion.
“There was a quick cremation at Janeene’s insistence and Janeene receives the $1 million life insurance proceeds,” prosecutor Shanna Hourihan explained to “Snapped.”
The Joneses’ family home was sold off, as were all of Max’s belongings, including his tools and musical equipment, in rapid succession. Soon after, Janeene married Matthew Reilly Smith, who was over 20 years her junior, and with her life insurance payout, Janeene began renovating and renting out properties around North Port. The area had seen a building boom in the early 2000s but the 2008 financial crisis had caused many foreclosures, resulting in a glut of abandoned houses.
The only problem was Janeene didn’t own any of the properties. Jones and Smith drilled the locks off dozens of foreclosed homes across North Port and forged multiple quit-claim deeds, according to a 2013 Charlotte Sun article.
John Chamberlain was hired to do plumbing work on the properties, thinking they had been obtained legally. He also rented a house from Janeene at a reduced rate. But after several months, Chamberlain became suspicious of Smith and Janeene's business practices.
“There would be a lockbox on the door and she said, ‘These houses have sat so long we can’t contact anybody who has the key for them and so we got to go in there and drill the locks off,'” Chamberlain told producers. “I said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable doing this. I don’t do illegal stuff like this,’ and I knew at this time now that she was involved in illegal stuff.”
Things came to a head after one of the real owners discovered what was going on: They had returned to their home to discover someone else living there, claiming a woman named Jan Jones owned it.
Janeene used a burner phone for her renters so nothing could be traced back to her, but when asked for a contact for Janeene, Chamberlain gave the owners her real phone number.
Janeene moved to evict Chamberlain from the house he rented from her and sent Smith over to deliver the news, which resulted in a vicious fight between the two. Thus, Chamberlain reported My Retirement LLC, Janeene's company, to the North Port Police Department in Jan. 2013 and found a receptive audience.
“Janeene Jones was already on the radar of the North Port Police Department. They had heard the whispers of Janeene possibly killing Max, so when her name comes up in this fraud investigation, their interest was piqued,” Hourihan told producers.
North Port PD had tried to investigate the death of Max Jones, but due to his cremation couldn’t prove his death was a homicide. Therefore, they welcomed the opportunity to open a fraud investigation on Janeene.
“I’ve heard out of Matt’s mouth that none of these houses are legal and that he was trying to get Jan set up where she’d be like making 10 to 15 thousand a month,” Chamberlain is seen telling police in video of his interview obtained by “Snapped.”
When asked who was the “brain” behind the operation, Chamberlain replies, “Jan. Absolutely.”
The case took a shocking twist when, in the middle of the investigation, Sarasota Police Lieutenant Robert Armstrong received a tip from an informant that Janeene was trying to hire someone to murder John Chamberlain. The informant agreed to wear a wire and record Jones soliciting a hitman.
At a meeting in a Sarasota restaurant, Janeene told the informant she wanted Chamberlain dead before his eviction hearing, at which point she intended to be away on a cruise.
“Janeene took out a napkin and drew out some details about the intended victim, John Chamberlain, put some information on the napkin, drew a diagram of the house,” Armstrong told “Snapped.”
Sarasota Police Detective Dominic Harris then posed as the hitman and called Janeene to discuss terms.
Janeene met with Harris in his car on Feb. 25, 2013. During the meeting she gave him a photo of Chamberlain, details of his home, and suggested “snapping his neck” or “shooting him,” the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper reported in 2013.
Harris asked if anyone else lived in the home with Chamberlain. “He’s got a daughter which I don’t care about,” Janeene replies in police surveillance footage obtained by “Snapped.”
“She said,‘If she gets in the way, kill her too.’ And at that time I knew, man, this lady is evil,” Harris told producers.
Janeene agreed to pay Harris $4,000 to murder Chamberlain, according to the Herald-Tribune, including a $1,000 down payment in cash. And before the meeting was over, she also asked him to murder her husband, Smith, for another $4,000.
“She was getting tired of Matt, and she knew, like, with Max, she could make some money off of him,” Hourihan told producers. “On Jan. 3, when the $1 million life insurance policy on Matt’s life became effective, she had every reason in the world to add him to her hit list.”
After exiting Harris’ vehicle, Janeene was taken into custody. She was charged with two felony counts of solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, the Herald-Tribune reported.
Smith was shocked to learn of his wife’s murder plot but refused to cooperate with police. Smith and Janeene would subsequently receive 33 charges related to their real estate scam, ranging from burglary to criminal use of identification to operating as an unlicensed real estate agent, according to the Charlotte Sun.
Janeene and Smith divorced in October 2013. Smith served six months in jail before pleading guilty to one count of scheming to defraud in Jan. 2014 and agreeing to testify against Jones. He was sentenced to four years probation and ordered to pay $17,500 in restitution, the Charlotte Sun reported at the time.
In May 2014, Janeene Jones pleaded no contest to two counts of solicitation to commit murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported in 2014. Now 57, she is currently incarcerated at the Florida Women's Reception Center state prison in Ocala.
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