FORT SMITH — Lloyd Jones, 36, of Lavaca was sentenced Wednesday to 60 years in prison for the strangulation death of a junior-high schoolgirl in February. The judge told him that he must serve all of the sentence under the state’s habitual-criminal law.
Jones pleaded guilty before Sebastian County Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor to first-degree murder in the Feb. 10 killing of 16-year-old Angela Allen, whom he lured from her Van Buren home, then strangled, stuffed into a barrel and buried in a shallow grave.
“When you saw how young she was, why didn’t you just drive off?” Allen’s grandmother, Colleen Allen, read in a statement during Jones’ sentencing hearing. “Why did you have to hurt two families with your actions? Angie’s family and your family.”
Angela Allen, whom Colleen Allen had adopted, was living in her Van Buren home when she disappeared.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Allison Houston said the plea agreement gives the family closure and eliminates the possibility that Jones would appeal the sentence.
Also, she said, “We look at this as a life sentence.”
The state’s habitual criminal law provides that a person must serve the entire sentence on conviction of a violent felony if he had been previously convicted of another violent felony, Houston said.
Jones was convicted of rape in Sebastian County in 2001 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to court records.
About 40 people attended Wednesday’s hearing. Many in the audience were friends and relatives of Angela Allen, but several were from law enforcement agencies, including the Sebastian County sheriff’s office, Crawford County Sheriff Ron Brown and FBI Special Agent Jim Caudle, all of whom helped investigate Allen’s disappearance and death.
Five relatives and friends read prepared victim-impact statements. Allen’s brother, Seth Allen, 14, called Jones a “disgrace to this planet” and told him he didn’t deserve to live.
Colleen Allen was the only family member who said she forgives Jones for killing Angela Allen.
“I want my family to heal,” she read from her statement. “The only way we can heal is by forgiveness. So, I do forgive you. Can you forgive yourself?”
Some statements, including one read by Angela Allen’s mother, Cecilia Allen, and neighbors, talked about Angela Allen’s personality and the meaning of her loss.
Colleen Allen spoke of the simple things in life that her granddaughter would miss, such as her ninth-grade formal, getting her driver’s license, having a career, getting married and having children.
Friend and neighbor Lara Vanderbush said in her statement that the loss of Angela Allen was a loss to the community in which she touched so many lives.
“No more dances to fix her up for, no more community projects for her to participate in. No more spoiling the babies she loved so well,” Vanderbush read.
Jones did not make a statement in court before his sentencing. He sat at the defense table before the hearing, appearing calm as he spoke with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Rita Watkins.
He appeared in court in orange jail coveralls with white socks and slippers. He hands were cuffed to a chain around his waist, and he was hobbled by leg shackles. He still had the crew cut and goatee he sported when he was arrested earlier this year.
Angela Allen disappeared the evening of Feb. 10 after she told her grandmother she was going out for a walk. Authorities believe she was going to meet Jones, with whom she had been conversing by cell phone and with whom Jones was building a relationship.
For a week, police, family and friends searched for her without success. Investigators checking Allen’s phone records came across several calls with Jones, a Level 3 sex offender with a violent criminal record. He immediately became a suspect.
In his initial interview with police Feb. 16, Jones acknowledged that he met Allen and drove her to the Arkansas River bottoms near Lavaca. He said he pushed Allen into the river when he learned her age and left her.
Police searched a hillside near the Jones family home east of Lavaca on Feb. 17, and a cadaver dog signaled the presence of human remains. Investigators dug down several feet and found Allen’s body stuffed in a blue plastic barrel.
The same day, Jones’ father met with his son at the Sebastian County jail. During their conversation, which was recorded, deputies said Jones told his father, “‘I panicked. I did it.’”
In addition, Jones pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of material depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child and one count of abuse of a corpse. Investigators have said that Jones cut off Allen’s arm to fit her into the barrel.
He was sentenced to 10 years for abuse of a corpse and 10 years for one count of possessing sexually explicit material. He was sentence to 20 years on the two other counts of possessing sexually explicit material.