Deal reached in caregiver case

Kelly Renee Jones, charged with the murder of an 85-year-old Clovis woman she had been caring for, on Thursday pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Jones will spend no more than six years in prison for the death of Urelda Priscilla Stovall, according to Dennis Peterson, a prosecutor with the Fresno County District Attorney's Office.

The 42-year-old woman could be sent to prison for as few as three years when she is sentenced Oct. 12.

Urelda's son, George Stovall, was hoping for a longer prison sentence, but said he must accept the sentence that Jones gets.

"I'm not happy with it, but I have to live with it because there's nothing I can do about it," said Stovall, who didn't attend the hearing.

Stovall said the District Attorney's Office felt it would be a risk to take the murder case to trial after receiving input from a pathologist retained by the defense and because Jones was under the influence at the time of Stovall's mother's death.

Peterson said he discussed the case with Antonio Alvarez, the prosecutor who worked on the case, and some "evidentiary issues" as well as witness statements and accounts led to the plea offer.

An autopsy report concluded that Urelda Stovall -- a frail, bedridden woman -- died from an overdose of methadone and morphine last November. Two months later, Jones was arrested for what Clovis police said appeared to be a mercy killing.

But Stovall's family believes that Jones had another motive -- she wanted to murder the woman and steal her belongings.

At the time of her death, Stovall was being cared for in her home by Jones, police said.

During Jones' preliminary hearing, George Stovall testified that he drove to his mother's home on the 1500 block of Portals Avenue the day she died and found a stumbling, incoherent Jones answering the door.

He said his mother was lying on a bed in the living room with a kitchen drawer on top of her.

When he asked Jones what was going on, she started speaking incoherently.

The house was in disarray, and Stovall testified that he found his mother's clothes packed in plastic bags.

He accused Jones of stealing from his mother and called police. When he went back to check on his mother, her hands and cheeks were cold and she didn't have a pulse.

"They were ripping my mom off left and right," Stovall said Thursday.

As part of the investigation into the death, police took blood samples from both Jones and Stovall. Toxicology results from the coroner indicated Stovall had levels of morphine and methadone in her system in amounts high enough to cause her death.

Stovall had a prescription for morphine, a narcotic derived from opium used to relieve pain, but not for methadone, a synthetic narcotic used to treat heroin and morphine addiction.

An analysis of blood taken from Jones indicated that she was under the influence of medication prescribed to Stovall, but it was not morphine, Clovis police said earlier this year.