Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr., the University of Virginia ex-football player accused of murdering three of his former teammates on a charter bus after returning from a class field trip, made his first court appearance Wednesday after being slapped with additional charges in connection to the two surviving victims.
A day before his 23rd birthday, Jones made his first court appearance via video link in Albemarle County.
The court ordered him held in custody without bail.
Wednesday was not an arraignment, as no plea has been entered. Jones’ criminal history came up in court – charges from 2021 including concealed weapons, reckless driving. Those sentences were suspended.
Jones was initially charged with three counts of second-degree murder in connection to the deaths of active UVA football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry, as well as three counts of using a handgun in commission of a felony. On Tuesday, an additional two counts of malicious wounding were added in connection to surviving victims, a UVA football player Michael Hollins Jr. and Marlee Morgan, a sophomore at the university.
Jones indicated he intended to hire counsel and in the interim the court appointed the public defender office to represent him.
After the court appearance on Wednesday, Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James M. Hingeley spoke briefly to the media but declined to discuss the facts of the case, stating he wanted the defendant to have a fair trial free of prejudicial pretrial publicity. He also noted the investigation is still ongoing.
Jones was arrested on February 22, 2021, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, for a concealed weapons violation. He was convicted in that case on June 10, 2021. At the time of his arrest, there were outstanding warrants for hit-and-run property damage and reckless driving in Petersburg County.
The case was heard in Petersburg County on October 28, 2021, and Jones was sentenced to 12 months. But the sentences for both cases, from two separate jurisdictions, were suspended, the prosecutor said.
At an athletics department press conference Tuesday, University of Virginia Football Head Coach Tony Elliot mourned the losses of “three beautiful young human beings that had an unbelievable future ahead of them.”
The team has not practiced for two days, and the UVA game against Coastal Carolina scheduled this coming weekend has since been canceled.
Hollins was initially listed in critical condition and was intubated as of Monday night. He underwent a second surgery on Tuesday, was taken off a ventilator and said to be doing well, according to Baton Rouge-based attorney, Gordon McKernan.
McKernan spoke to Sports Illustrated on behalf of the family. Hollins’ mother, Brenda, has worked for his law firm for the past seven years, and McKernan’s son played basketball and football with Hollins in high school.
“It’s been hard,” McKernan said. “He is what you want your son to be. He’s that guy. He’s been at our house so much. We’ve gone on trips with them. He is polite, respectful, smart. He’s driven, tenacious and persistent.”
A prosecutor identified the fifth victim for the first time on Tuesday as Morgan.
She reportedly was hospitalized in good condition Monday and released Tuesday. A LinkedIn profile bearing her name says she is studying finance and financial management services at the University of Virginia. From Houston, Texas, she also is interning for Lighthouse Midstream Services, according to the profile.
Jones’ first court appearance, initially scheduled for Tuesday, was pushed back a day.
The shooting erupted on a charter bus at an on-campus parking garage before 10:30 p.m. Sunday night as students were returning from a class field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C.
A shelter-in-place order was extended for about 12 hours as law enforcement conducted an exhaustive, building-by-building search for Jones. The order was lifted while the manhunt still continued, though police were confident Jones had left the Charlottesville campus. He was apprehended around 11 a.m. in Henrico, Va.
At a press conference Monday, UVA President Jim Ryan said investigators did not yet have a “full understanding” of the motive or circumstances surrounding the shooting.
University Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said Jones had faced a prior hazing investigation, but the probe was “eventually closed due to witnesses who would not cooperate with the process.”
Jones also had been UVA’s threat assessment team’s radar over an alleged criminal incident involving a weapons violation that happened outside Charlottesville, Longo said. He was facing administrative charges for failing to report the matter to the university, as is required of all UVA students.
The UVA football website says Jones was a team member during the 2018 season but that he did not play in any games. Jones had not been on the team for more than a year. He was a walk-on and on the team for one semester.
Asked if the hazing incident related to the football team Tuesday, UVA Athletics Director Carla Williams said she was not aware of that and did not have any details beyond what the police said Monday.
Jones’ father told local news outlets he believed his son was being picked on and was growing paranoid.
Fox News’ Kim Wagner contributed to this report.