Judge binds over murder suspect’s case to circuit court

By: Bria Brown | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 26, 2018

 Jonathan Jones walks inside Judge Marco Santia’s courtroom for his preliminary examination Feb. 14. He returned to court for the conclusion of the preliminary examination Feb. 21.

Jonathan Jones walks inside Judge Marco Santia’s courtroom for his preliminary examination Feb. 14. He returned to court for the conclusion of the preliminary examination Feb. 21.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROSEVILLE — A Roseville district court judge decided at a preliminary examination in 39th District Court Feb. 21 that an Eastpointe resident charged with murder and child abuse in the death of 4-year-old Ivy Yurkus last May should be bound over to Macomb County Circuit Court.

Jonathan Jones is charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse; he is scheduled to appear in 16th Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m. March 5. The Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office said that Yurkus’ death was a homicide. 

The preliminary examination — to decide if enough evidence existed for the case to proceed in circuit court — took place over two days, Feb. 14 and 21.

Ivy Yurkus’ mother, Amanda Yurkus, was the first to testify Feb. 21. She explained that Ivy was the middle child of three siblings that include an older brother and a younger sister. Amanda Yurkus told the court that Jones is the father of her youngest daughter. 

According to Amanda Yurkus, May 3, the day leading up to Ivy’s death on May 4, was normal. Her family woke up late to take her son to the bus stop; Jones got himself and Ivy Yurkus dressed, and he went to work during the day. Amanda Yurkus said she dropped off Jones at work and came back home to clean her home prior to picking up Jones from work later that afternoon. 

Once it was time for Amanda Yurkus to go to work, Jones was going to take her. 

During the Feb. 14 preliminary examination, Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Jean Cloud asked former Wayne County Medical Examiner Chantel Njiwaji if falling onto a tree stump could have been the reason for bruising that was discovered on Ivy Yurkus’ body. Njiwaji said that the pattern of the girl’s injuries wasn’t consistent with falling on the tree stump. 

“It’s not that she wouldn’t have injuries; it’s just to say she wouldn’t have these type of injuries. These injuries have a very specific pattern in that it is indicative of someone, a fist or a hand, hitting her or grabbing her,” said Njiwaji. 

Under questioning from Cloud, Amanda Yurkus explained how the tree stump came into question.

In the midst of the family trying to get into the car the afternoon of May 3, Amanda Yurkus said, she didn’t realize how close her daughter was to the car. 

“I didn’t know she was behind me, and I opened my door, and she hit the door into the tree stump,” said Amanda Yurkus. 

Amanda Yurkus said that once Ivy Yurkus fell into the tree stump, she didn’t cry and there wasn’t any bruising on her. Jones dropped Amanda Yurkus off to work but came back 15 minutes later.

Amanda Yurkus remembered her daughter being carried in near the take-out door at her job at a restaurant. She said that when she saw her daughter on the floor of the restaurant, “She was blue in the lips and looked like she was gone.” 

Amanda Yurkus said a Delta Airlines employee who was at the restaurant said that Ivy Yurkus may have been having a seizure. 

According to Amanda Yurkus, once they were in the ambulance, her daughter woke up inside the vehicle. Amanda Yurkus also said that once they got to the hospital, her daughter’s stomach was bloated. The next day at the hospital, Ivy Yurkus died. 

During the first part of the preliminary examination Feb. 14, Cloud asked Njiwaji — who testified for two hours remotely from Washington, D.C. — to explain her autopsy findings.

Njiwaji said in her testimony that she conducted Ivy Yurkus’ autopsy the day of her death, May. 4. 

Police said in the May press release that the child had multiple current and past injuries that indicated a “systematic pattern of abuse.” Police identified Jones as the boyfriend of Ivy Yurkus’ mother.

Njiwaji testified that the bruises she observed on Yurkus’ body were all the same color.

“Considering that all the bruises had really all the same presentation in terms of their appearance being in a bluish, red, purple coloration, they were all, in my opinion, this all took place at the same moment in time in one setting,” she said.

Njiwaji told the court her opinion of Ivy Yurkus’ cause of death. 

“The cause of death was blunt abdominal trauma, and the manner of death was classified as a homicide,” she said.

Defense attorney Mark Satawa cross-examined Njiwaji and wanted to get clarification on her testimony regarding Ivy Yurkus’ abdomen. 

“To be clear, your testimony is that the injuries to the abdomen, in your mind, were caused by pressure being applied to her abdomen. You’re saying the force was applied to the abdomen of her body?” asked Satawa. 

“Correct,” answered Njiwaji. 

Following a brief recess Feb. 14, the next to testify was Ivy Yurkus’ brother. C & G Newspapers, the only media present, was asked to leave the courtroom during the brother’s testimony.

During Satawa’s closing remarks Feb. 21, he requested that Santia dismiss the case and deny Cloud’s motion to bind the matter over to circuit court. Cloud had argued that the people provided enough evidence to bind over the case. 

“The bottom line is, I would argue to this court, even understanding the relatively low standard of proof that the people have to meet, as well as the tragic nature of a 4-year-old being dead, that the evidence that the people have to present even at a preliminary examination should be higher than what has been presented over the last two days, in terms of who it was that caused those injuries, who it was that abused Ivy, if that’s in fact what killed her, and if in fact that’s how the injuries that had her hospitalized on May the third took place,” said Satawa. 

“I would argue that it is not sufficient to say, ‘OK it’s abuse, but I think that Jonathan Jones was the one that caused that abuse.’ For that reason, I would ask that the court deny the people’s motion to bind over to circuit court, and I would ask the court to dismiss the case,” said Satawa. 

During Santia’s final remarks Feb. 21, he addressed why he was binding the matter over to circuit court. 

“Her mother indicated that she knew this child from head to toe and had seen the child a couple days before and did not see significant marks on the child. There are very significant marks on her body,” said Santia. 

“I have to look at all the facts, and the circumstantial evidence. Mr. Jones did have access to the child at the time and the day that the child died. I think it’s evident, from this point of view, that on probable-cause basis, that both being felony murder and the child abuse in the first degree have been established by probable cause, and based upon that, the court is going to bind over both matters to circuit court,” said Santia.