MOUNT CARMEL — The theft trial for Mount Carmel Mayor Chris Jones is scheduled for July 29 in Hawkins County Criminal Court, which should give him time to recover from a slashed neck he suffered at a Kingsport motel last month.
According to a report by Kingsport Police Department Officer Andrew Goddard, on April 27 around 12:30 p.m. the KPD responded to a reported stabbing at Room 282 of the Americourt motel at 1900 American Way.
Goddard stated in his report that he was initially informed by Central Dispatch that Jones had told motel security personnel who called 911 that he had fallen on a knife.
Amber Page Hale, 31, reportedly told Goddard she had been staying with Jones at the motel for the previous four weeks, although her name wasn’t on the lease. Hale was identified in Goddard’s report as a suspect, and Jones identified Hale as his girlfriend.
Jones, 48, was elected Mount Carmel mayor in 2016 and prior to that served as an alderman for two years.
He was arrested on Feb. 10 on a Hawkins County grand jury sealed indictment warrant on one count of theft over $250,000.
The charge, which is a Class A felony, stems from allegations that Jones embezzled more than $394,000 from his elderly grandmother in West Virginia in the year before she passed away in 2016.
In March 2019, Third Judicial District Chancellor Doug Jenkins ruled that a $571,000 civil court judgment from West Virginia against Jones related to the alleged theft is valid in Tennessee and can be collected by the plaintiffs: Jones’ mother and two uncles.
Jones is currently free from the Hawkins County Jail on $100,000 bond. He officially has an address on Hemlock Street in Mount Carmel, although he has reportedly been evicted from that residence.
“He stated that he fell on a knife”
Upon his arrival at the motel on April 27, Goddard reportedly found Jones lying on his side in the breezeway near the doorway of Room 282 with a shirt wrapped around his neck and dried blood on his chest, abdomen and shorts.
“I asked Chris who had done this and he stated that he fell on a knife,” Goddard noted in his report. “I asked Chris where he was cut. Chris pulled the shirt away from his neck and I observed a laceration from near the bottom of Chris’s left ear, down around the side of his neck, and toward his chest.”
Goddard also reportedly observed a “fairly wide” laceration on Jones’ left elbow.
Americourt security employee Kenny Hinson reportedly told the KPD he had gone to Jones’ room that day on a noise complaint, but initially he didn’t get an answer when he knocked on the door.
“Kenny stated that when Amber opened the door she hesitated to let him in,” Goddard said. “When Kenny got into the room he could see Chris was injured and called 911. Chris and Amber, at some point, exited Room 282 and the door shut and locked behind them. Jones was transported to the Holston Valley Medical Center via Sullivan County EMS.”
Goddard said the investigation was taken over by the KPD Detectives Division.
Fired amid allegations he’d stolen pills
Jones was a longtime Mount Carmel police officer, detective and fire chief until 2013, when he was fired by former Mayor Larry Frost amid allegations he had stolen pills that were in a jacket that was turned over to the police department after being found at the City Park.
That lost-and-found jacket was reportedly part of an attempted sting operation, and although Jones was fired, no criminal charges were filed.
In 2014, Jones was elected Mount Carmel alderman, and in 2016 he unseated Frost in the mayoral election. Jones has stated publicly, even prior to his arrest, that he has no plans to seek re-election this year.
Jones is next scheduled to appear before Judge John Dugger in Sneedville on July 1 to announce if he will proceed to trial July 29 in Rogersville.