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Phone Technology Helps Atlanta Detectives Crack Aspiring Actor's ‘Hook-Up’ That Turned Into Homicide
Mitchell Jones Jr. had dreams of making it as an actor in Atlanta. Those dreams were cut short in 2018, after an intruder killed him in his own home.
Atlanta boasts a bustling entertainment industry and is a beacon for aspiring performers. But on November 23, 2018, 34-year-old Mitchell Jones Jr.’s dream of being an actor came to a tragic end.
Around 9:30 p.m. Jones called 911, pleading with the dispatcher to send help. Detectives broke through a locked upstairs bedroom door and found Jones lying at the foot of his bed. He had multiple blunt- and sharp-force injuries and was “covered in blood,” investigators told told “The Real Murders of Atlanta,” airing Sundays at 8/7c on Oxygen. Jones was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
“My first impression was very violent, and it was personal,” said Sgt. Carey Grimstead, a former homicide detective, Cobb County PD. “The front door was open. An altercation like that is something that’s done between people who know each other.”
Detectives believed that blood found downstairs at the entrance to the house could be the assailant’s. CSI locked down the crime scene inside, while police questioned Jones' neighbors.
One nearby resident had a doorbell surveillance camera facing Jones' home. Footage from the camera showed a car pulling into the victim’s driveway at 9:09 p.m. The same sedan pulled out of the driveway and sped off 20 minutes later, not long before the 911 call.
The video quality was too grainy to pull a license plate. But police had a clear image of the vehicle’s tail lights, which investigators later matched to those on a Buick Lucerne.
Detectives looked to geofencing technology to set a digital “dragnet” around a crime scene using GPS signals to jump start the investigation. They used used innovative geofence technology to pinpoint all the cell phones that were in close proximity to Jones' home around the time of the murder. It was their first-ever search using the technology, according to a Cobb County release.
David Raissi, a former homicide detective, Cobb County PD, submitted a geofence search warrant to Apple, Google and Facebook. “Google responded back to us with evidentiary information in this case,” he told producers.
Investigators were given information for anyone who was within 500 feet of Jones' home within 45 minutes of the murder. They narrowed that field down to four devices based on the entry and exit time of the geofence, and obtained subscriber information for the four devices. Two of them resided in the neighborhood and a third was visiting someone who lived nearby.
The fourth individual was Dunte Holmes, who had scrapes with the law but wasn’t in the CODIS DNA database. Authorities traced Holmes’ cell phone and discovered that his phone pinged at the victim’s house on the night of the murder. Raissi described that finding as “an aha moment.”
Detectives learned that Holmes’ mother had a new Buick Lucerne that was sold shortly after the incident. They also found a photo of Holmes uploaded to the cloud just after Thanksgiving showing him with a bloody leg injury. It may have accounted for blood found downstairs at Jones' home.
Holmes was arrested and booked into the Cobb County jail on April 12, 2019, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Detectives immediately collected Holmes’ blood to test it against the drop of blood found at the entryway to the crime scene.
Holmes was interviewed at the Cobb County Police Station, where he agreed to speak without an attorney. Holmes said Jones was just an occasional “hook-up.” He continued to deny having anything to do with Jones’ stabbing death, despite the physical and electronic evidence stacked up against him. But after hours of intense questioning, he changed his story.
“According to Dunte Holmes, he was calling it quits with Mitchell,” said Grimstead. “Mitchell had called him to come over to his house one last time to talk about things.”
Holmes claimed that Jones attacked him.
“He had his back turned to me, then he turned around and he tried to stab me,” Holmes said in the videotaped police interview.
Holmes claimed he acted in self-defense, turning the weapon on Jones and repeatedly stabbing him. He also hit him over the head with a piece of glass.
“Holmes’ claim that this was some sort of self defense or justified homicide didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to us based on our review of the facts of the case,” said Evans.
During the fight is when he cut his ankle, which led to the suspect’s blood being downstairs, police said. Crime lab analysis matched the blood at the crime scene to Holmes.
Over the next several months, the defense and prosecution prepared for court. If convicted of murder, Holmes faced the possibility of the death penalty. About three weeks before the trial began, Holmes and his legal team arranged a plea.
On January 6, 2020, Holmes, 22, pleaded guilty to malice murder, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery, reported Fox 5 Atlanta. He was sentenced to life in prison.
To learn more about the case, watch “The Real Murders of Atlanta,” airing Sundays at 8/7c on Oxygen.