A 28-year-old Michigan man is poised to spend the rest of his life behind bars after being convicted of beating his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter to death in 2018. A Macomb County Circuit Court jury on Friday returned a guilty verdict against Jonathan Christopher Jones on one count of first-degree felony murder and one count of first-degree child abuse for the 2017 death of young Ivy Yurkus, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.
The verdict came after the jury deliberated for two and a half days following a nine-day trial before Circuit Judge Kathryn A. Viviano. Under Michigan state law for persons convicted of first-degree murder, Jones is slated to receive a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole when he appears for sentencing. That hearing is currently scheduled for the morning of April 13.
The Eastpointe Eastsider and Macomb Daily newspapers both reported that Jones began crying immediately after the guilty verdicts were announced, with the latter reporting that his sobs could be heard even after sheriff deputies led him to a cell located behind the courtroom.
Assistant Macomb Prosecutor Jean Cloud praised the jury’s decision after Friday’s proceedings came to a close.
“We are extremely pleased that the jury gave this child justice. Although it took 4-½ years, justice did prevail,” he reportedly said.
The case against Jones is said to have encountered multiple delays due to a pair of mistrials and multiple interruptions caused by COVID-19 health restrictions at the courthouse.
Jones’s attorney, Scott Weinberg, told the Macomb Daily that he and co-counsel in the case, Nicole Castka, were both “shocked” by the jury’s verdict.
“While we respect the jury system, we believe they came to a verdict that was not supported by the evidence,” Weinberg reportedly told the newspaper.
Weinberg said his client was devastated by the outcome and emphasized that Jones “denies all incidents of abuse against Ivy,” calling the little girl “the love of his life.”
Prosecutors reportedly alleged that Jones on May 3, 2017 punched Ivy in the stomach while in the laundry room of their home located in the 1200 block of Galloway Street. Jones then drove his girlfriend, Amanda Yurkus, who is Ivy’s mother, to work at the Outback Steakhouse in Roseville. Prosecutors said Ivy told her mother that Jones had hit her in the stomach, and the girl’s mother reportedly yelled at the defendant during the drive to the restaurant, the Macomb Daily reported. Angered that Ivy allegedly told her mother about the alleged abuse, prosecutors said Jones went home, beat the child in retaliation, and inflicted the injuries that later led to the girl’s death.
Approximately 15 minutes after dropping Amanda off at work, Jones reportedly returned to the restaurant carrying an unresponsive Ivy in his arms. Leah Pacholke, a certified CPR instructor who was dining at the location when Jones brought the child in, reportedly testified in court that Ivy’s lips were blue and that her breathing was “cackling,” per the Macomb Daily.
Ivy was reportedly transported to the hospital via ambulance, arriving at the facility with a bloated stomach. Despite doctors’ best efforts, the girl succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead on May 4.
The Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy and determined that Ivy’s death was a homicide caused by blunt force abdominal trauma that severed her mesenteric vein and caused severe internal bleeding, reports say.
According to testimony from Ivy’s mother, Jones reportedly brought Ivy to the restaurant less than an hour after the little girl told her, “He hit me in the stomach.” Ivy’s brother, who was seven years old at the time of the girl’s death, also reportedly testified behind closed doors that Jones gave his sister a “whoopin” just before she went unconscious, according to a report from the Oakland Press.
The defense argued that Ivy sustained the fatal stomach injury from a fall several days before she began presenting symptoms. A former county medical examiner who did not examine Ivy’s body testified for the defense, reportedly saying that he believed Ivy had a slow bleed in her stomach, possibly from falling on a tree stump the previous week, that may have been aggravated on the day she fell unconscious.
However, government authorities reportedly responded by asserting that Ivy’s injuries were consistent with “a systematic pattern of abuse.”
Jones’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the verdict and believe they have a chance for a reversal.
“We feel there are many issues on appeal that we hope will result in a reversal by the appeals court,” Weinberg reportedly told the Macomb Daily.
[image via Macomb County Sheriff’s Office]
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