WISE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – It’s been nearly 3 years since investigators say Janina Jefferson was murdered by her ex-husband Eric Jones in Appalachia, Virginia.
For for the first – we’re seeing surveillance video from a Big Stone Gap convenience store just after investigators say Jones killed Jefferson.
The Wise County Sheriff’s Office is working with the U.S. Marshal’s Office to track down Eric Jones.
They’ve received 30-50 tips in the case and we’ve learned they’re working on new ones as we speak.
This – as the sheriff’s office works to close their only active murder case and bring Janina’s family – justice.
“She came here, ate with me, she told me she loved me, I hugged her and then she went back on the mountain,” that’s the last time Brieann Lomax saw her mother Janina – just hours before she was killed.
Janina’s three children describe her as a great mother who always pushed them to follow their dreams.
“We knew we had to respect her, but we had a friendship with her,” Lomax said.
Janina Jefferson and Eric Jones were married in 2013 – divorced when she was killed. Jones was their stepdad.
“At first we were really happy for her and we did feel like a family, but it’s weird because it was just like a switch,” Lomax said.
They said his behavior drastically changed.
“Kinda seemed like he was “pops” which is what we called him, but he slowly started to revert back to his ways and hanging out with the wrong crowd, money started disappearing, drugs, and in that we could start seeing his behavior changing,” Trey Lomax said.
Investigators say Jefferson was ambushed at the Town of Appalachia Water Treatment Plant where she was working the night shift, alone.
“As soon as she exited the vehicle, I think that’s the act that happened that killed her. She had no idea it was coming. It was so sudden,” Sgt. Charles Curry and Assistant Sheriff Grant Kilgore with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office said.
Police shared surveillance video with News Channel 11 from the Scotchman convenience store on Gilley Avenue in Big Stone Gap the night of the murder November 27, 2016.
Jones buys a pack of beer – then walks out.
Police said this was the last confirmed sighting of Eric Jones in nearly three years.
Investigators have received tips from across the country – even Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
Kilgore tells us he believes Jones is out of the country.
“We’ve searched houses in Florida. We’ve searched houses up near the northern border of Ohio,” Captain Tim Wagner with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office said.
Investigators said Jones is no stranger to law enforcement and has served prison time.
“In the mid-90’s – Mr. Jones was arrested for attempted murder for hire, 3 counts of that, Eric Jones was paid crack cocaine to set a house on fire with a mother and 2 small children in it,” Sgt. Curry said.
At the time of the murder – Jones was facing charges of strangling Janina just a few weeks before her death.
“Our belief is that Eric Jones had it in his mind that he was not going back to prison. I think that was his motive, he wanted to eliminate who he felt was going to put him back there,” Sgt. Curry said.
Investigators want Jones to know – they’re not going to let him get away with Janina’s murder.
“I think he’s wanting to go on with his life. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen and he gets to face justice in Wise County for the murder of Janina Jefferson,” Assistant Sheriff Grant Kilgore said.
U.S. Marshal’s Office billboards have been posted on the east coast as well as further west.
He’s considered armed and dangerous.
If you see him do not approach him – you can give this number a call 1-877-WANTED2.
You can also call or email the Wise County Sheriff’s Office at 276-328-3756 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Marshal’s Office is offering a $10,000 reward for the person who can give police that information leading to his arrest.