by Carlissa Shaw, Esq. —
On Nov. 28, 2014, the news of the slaying of Jarmelle “Jo Jo” Jones during what seemed to be a home invasion rocked an entire community of young Memphians.
As one commentator said at the time, Memphis lost a pharaoh.
More than seven years later, friends and family of Jo Jo got a little peace after a Shelby County jury found Thaddeus Money guilty of first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, criminal attempt murder in the second-degree, employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony, aggravated assault and theft of property, according to Paul Hagerman, the prosecutor who handled the case, along with Austin Scofield.
Immediately after the guilty verdict, Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft sentenced Money to life in prison and reset sentencing on the remaining charges for a later date.
Dozens of friends and family members traveled to 201 Poplar every day of the trial, seeking answers and closure on what happened on that November day.
According to the prosecution’s theory of the case and the testimony presented at trial by several witnesses, Money and Raphael Farmer tried to rob Jo Jo and Stephine Moss at his Cordova home after seeing on social media that the couple recently was in New York on a lavish vacation.
Moss, Jo Jo’s girlfriend at the time, testified that the two had left J. Alexander’s, also in Cordova, and had pulled up to the house. A few moments after entering the home, they were ambushed by two men dressed in all black with masks and gloves.
Farmer, a co-defendant, recently severed from the case, testified that he and Money committed the robbery and stole the car. He testified that they drove the car to a house in Raleigh, where they burned the vehicle.
Now is more than a time to celebrate a conviction. It also is time to pause and reflect on the impact that Jo Jo made in the Memphis community.
A few weeks ago, we were reminded of the beauty of Jo Jo’s peaceful soul. More than 4,000 people took the time on a Sunday to recognize his legacy.
I met so many people and watched so many with tears in their eyes that day.
There was a range of stories, but the overall theme focused on how Jo Jo gave selflessly. At age 26, Jo Jo did more for this city than some people three times his age.
The Rev. Stacy Spencer of New Direction Christian Church delivered a powerful eulogy, in which he spoke of a pop-culture saying: YOLO (You Only Live Once), pointing out that Jo Jo lived his life with a good heart and with a continued positivity that few on this earth ever truly attain.
Jarmelle Jones went by many names. Jo Jo, Mr. AddnoE (E was for excuses) and Mr. University of Memphis are just a few. But many of us knew him long before those names were created.
Simply put, Jo Jo was always a “cool kid.” I remember him at Shunn Gunn parties with his color popped on his Polo shirt and a fresh new pair of Jordans.
After Jo Jo graduated high school, he went to the University of Memphis. That is when the nickname Mr. U of M was created because he was the poster child for the university. He was a student manager for the U of M Tiger basketball teams in 2006-07 and 2007-08, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and he worked at Ching’s Hot Wings, a local favorite especially for U of M students.
When Jo Jo was killed, Memphis seemed like a different city to me. This may sound crazy, but I felt like things like that didn’t happen to people like us. The “good kids” with college degrees, attend church and have strong family structures.
I remember saying at the time, “I have known Jo Jo since high school and Jo Jo don’t bother nobody.” But it happened and for several years no one knew what happened. The case went cold. It all seemed unreal.
Finally, in 2016, Farmer, 27, and Money, 29, were indicted on eight counts, including first-degree murder charges. Both men had several previous arrests and convictions for charges, including burglary and theft of property.
Nearly seven years almost to the date, the murder of another one of Memphis’ pharaohs, Adolph “Young Dolph” Thornton, Jr., senselessly murdered in Memphis, causes us to revisit the same emotions. The sense of helplessness and despair are all too familiar.
Recently, Memphis made headlines for being ranked as the most dangerous city in the United States, according to a 24/7 Wall St. study using FBI statistics.
But with names like Jarmelle “Jo Jo” Jones and Adolph “Young Dolph” Thornton Jr. being amongst those designated “victims,” our communities are beyond tired of losing the best and brightest amongst us to senseless acts of gun violence.
Convictions are one thing, but prevention and stopping the unnecessary bloodshed is what Memphis needs.