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Juvenile lookout in Simpson slaying is urged to say he lied

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of October 11, 2012)
Photo of the county jail.

The accused killer of island resident Brian Simpson, gunned down a year ago when he interrupted a burglary at his Central Beach home, wrote his suspected teenage accomplice a threatening letter, ordering the youth to tell the judge he lied when he confessed to police and had nothing to do with the killing.

Deputy Chauncey Stovall hand carried the letter from Henry Lee Jones, 24, who is awaiting trial at the Indian River jail, to the cell of 17-year-old Darius Robinson.

Stovall’s role as the courier of a letter from one prisoner to another is a violation of sheriff’s department policy, but the deputy appears to have received just a slap on the wrist for breaking jail rules and possibly helping intimidate the key witness to one of the barrier island’s most sensational crimes since the 1990s (see accompanying story).

Robinson’s mother, Octavia Ball, says Jones' letter terrified her son, who saw it as a threat.

He immediately called his mother, who notified jailers about the note. That triggered the internal affairs investigation.

Robinson, allegedly the lookout while Jones pilfered jewelry in the Simpson home on Nov. 17, raced into the house when Simpson pulled into his driveway, police say. Within moments, Jones began shooting through the door of the master bathroom where he and Robinson retreated when Simpson confronted them, police say. 

Two shots hit Simpson, a father of two, and he died on the floor of his bedroom.

Robinson then bailed out the bathroom window, dropping jewelry as he left the house, investigators say, while Jones is believed to left through a door that was discovered open when officers arrived.

For four days, Jones and Robinson, a Vero Beach High School sophomore, remained free. They returned to the island Nov. 21 to look for the gun they stashed after the shooting, police say. 

After being arrested on unrelated charges, Robinson broke down and cried uncontrollably when he was taken to the Simpson house the next day. Police say Robinson confessed. Both he and Jones were charged with murder.  No trial date has been set yet.

Authorities say Jones used Stovell, 31, a deputy since March 2011, to smuggle the letter to Robinson through his cousin, who ironically was Robinson’s cell mate, so it wouldn’t be intercepted in the mail room where jail workers read all inmate mail.

Jail officials found Jones’ profanity-laced letter when they searched the juvenile cell.

Stovall was spotted on a surveillance camera accepting the letter from another inmate who five minutes earlier had been handed the note by Jones.  Additional surveillance images show Stovall walking into the cell Robinson shared with Tyrez Brown, Jones’ cousin. 

Robinson told investigators Stovall called out Brown’s name to get his attention and said, “Are you OK with this?” when he placed the letter on Brown’s bunk.

Brown and Robinson then went into their cell’s bathroom to read the letter:

“Lil cuz, wasup man? I talk to Larry and he told me you get sentenced on the 30th and they trying to give you 45 months. Damn lil cuz, I hope everything go good for you. I wanted to send you this kite (note) to talk to boy for me and tell him to let these people know I didn’t have nutin (sic) to do with that s--- and the police made him say that bulls--- about me and that statements he made against me damn lie and he know it.

“But tell him I forgive but I won’t forget and another thing tell him to plead the fifth that way the statements he made cannot be used in court and he cannot testify so it makes the whole case weak and more easy to beat.  Tell him to write the judge and tell him I didn’t have nutin (sic) to do with that s--- and the police made him say that and that I was never even in that area they said I was in. Tell him to make this s--- right, you feel me cuz? ” Jones wrote in the letter that is addressed to Robinson, but written more directly to his cousin.

“… So tell him to let them know that they scared him and pretty much made him confess to somethin (sic) I had no part of.  and (sic) co-hersed (sic) him to say this before they recorded him, tell him to tighten up.

“When you get this kite don’t give it to the boy just make sure you let him know what I said and if you can try and send me a kite back through the same person who brung (sic) you this, so don’t forget his face.

“Let me know everything that is going on with what he say and when you write me back  tell that boy i (sic) said  to write me to (sic)…

“Tell the boy i said to write the judge and let him know that the statements  he made wasn’t true against me and that they scared and made him say  that.”

After reading Jones letter, Robison called his mother and said he couldn’t wait until the next Sunday to see her. He said he didn’t want to talk about what was going on over the phone and that she needed to visit him as soon as possible.

Six days after Stovall delivered the letter, a jailer found the letter in the cell that Brown and Robinson shared.  By then, jailers had moved Robinson into another cell. 

Undeterred by the investigation, Brown wrote Jones back. That letter was found in Brown’s cell and was never delivered to the alleged killer.

In the letter, Brown told Jones he had passed the message along to Robinson, but jailers had moved Robinson to another cell.

“I let him know bout (sic) everything. Hey cuz when you write a letter to the gudge (sic) you send it to the courthouse or you give it to your attorney?...I told him bout pleading the fifth.

“He said what pleading the 5th mean? He was supposed to write you a letter back but he had went to lockdown. These crackas say we under investigation.”

Ball said she has no idea how her son knows Jones. Her son, she said, has a learning disability.

“Henry Jones is a manipulator,” Ball said. “He manipulated my son into going with him.”

Ball has been bothered by this latest twist in her son’s case for months, and said her son  is reeling as well.

“Something like that can affect people and their case,” said Ball. “If you cannot trust the guard in there then who in the hell can you trust. I think it is wrong and it should not have been done.”