Even after 20 years behind bars, Luther Jones said he never gave up hope of being cleared of a crime for which he always maintained he was innocent.
He filed appeals and contacted attorneys in search of assistance, but the efforts were of no avail.
“You got to keep hope,” said Jones, 71. “I tried to stay out of depression.”
His dream of freedom finally materialized in February, when the woman who accused him of molesting her when she was 10 years old went to the Lake County District Attorney’s Office to recant her story.
The prosecutor’s office and the courts worked quickly to have Jones released — nine years before his sentence would have expired — and within days he was a free man living with one of his sons in Lake County. His family was thrilled and relieved to have him back.
But his homecoming has not exactly been the stuff of fairy tales.
While in prison, Jones had become seriously ill. He now suffers from kidney and liver failure, diabetes and hepatitis C, according to Ko’Fawn Jones, 41, his son with whom he now lives.
Luther Jones lost 70 pounds while incarcerated, cannot walk or care for himself and requires three hours of dialysis three times a week, his son said.
Since the release, Ko’Fawn Jones has quit his job at Twin Pine Casino, where he worked in shipping and receiving, to care for his dad full time.
“It’s turned upside down,” he said of his life, which was just settling down after the Valley fire displaced him from a previous rental home.
When Ko’Fawn Jones last saw his father 21 years ago, Luther Jones weighed 250 pounds and, at about 6-foot-3, was a formidable presence.
“My dad was a big man. He used to bench over 500 pounds,” Ko’Fawn said.
He blames the prison system for his father’s poor health and contends he received inadequate treatment while incarcerated, most recently in a medical prison facility in Stockton.
Luther Jones is angry about his treatment in prison and about his incarceration. He said anyone who looked at his prior criminal record could see the child molestation charges didn’t fit. He had previously been charged with crimes related to thefts, drugs and domestic violence, according to the prosecutor’s office.
He doesn’t blame the person who accused him, but he does blame her mother, his ex-girlfriend, who allegedly told her daughter to lie. Luther Jones and the mother were battling at the time over the custody of his youngest daughter.
Ko’Fawn Jones is glad to have his father back, regardless of his health, but it’s dramatically changed the younger man’s life. He has four siblings, but for a variety of reasons, the job of caring for his father fell to him.
He said he had no idea how sick his father was until the day he was released from the prison medical facility. The two men had corresponded by mail, but Ko’Fawn hadn’t visited him in person.
When Luther Jones was sent to prison, his son was in the National Guard and unable to get away. In later years, he was prohibited from visiting because he was on probation for getting into fights, Ko’Fawn said.