The man who led Phoenix police on a high-speed chase that led to the fatal crash of two news helicopters and the death of four newsmen over Steele Indian School Park in downtown Phoenix nearly three years ago is facing nearly 500 years in prison after pleading guilty in relation to offenses related to the car chase.
Christopher Jermaine Jones, 26, pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to 35 counts overall, including aggravated assault, and other felony counts of auto theft, unlawful flight and a misdemeanor count of failure to stay at an accident, according to information from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Jones also pleaded guilty to counts of endangerment, criminal trespass and criminal damage.
Because of the severity of the charges against him, Jones faces a maximum sentence of up to 467 years, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris said the car chase began after police received a report of a stolen vehicle and began pursuing a driver, who abandoned that vehicle and stole a truck. The truck was being chased at the time of the copter collision.
KTVK-TV (Channel 3) photojournalist Jim Cox and pilot Scott Bowerbank were killed, as were KNXV-TV (ABC 15) photographer Rick Krolak and pilot Craig Smith on July 27, 2007, as they were following the chase through city streets.
The suspect, identified as Jones, later bailed out of the truck and barricaded himself in a house, where he was captured, police said.
There was a motion to suppress evidence during the hearing, according to William FitzGerald, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. "These are generally pretty standard hearings where the defense has its last best chance to argue against the use of evidence in trial," FitzGerald said in an e-mail. "At the end of the hearing the process of picking a jury was to begin."
Jones will be scheduled on Sept. 10.