January 18, 2023

Day 1 testimony brings new details in murder trial of missing Quitman County couple

Therese Apel

Will Polk and April Jones

The details that came out in court Wednesday of the last days of April Jones and Will Polk read like a chaotic backwoods mafia story, complete with dismembered bodies, a suspect with at least three girlfriends, and a defense attorney who objected to the other defense attorney’s line of questioning.

Jones and Polk disappeared on the night of October 9, 2019, and prosecution witnesses laid out what the investigation revealed happened to them in the first day of testimony at the Quitman County Courthouse in Marks.

Detective Darryl Linzy and Chief Deputy Peter Clinton testified that defendants Keith “K2” Coleman and Jayme Lynn Tubbs, who are each charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of murder, and two counts of desecration of a corpse, lured Polk and Jones to their deaths after Coleman said he believed they had stolen between $15,000 and $18,000 worth of methamphetamines. The drugs, which were never recovered, were allegedly stolen from him at a house he didn’t live in from a room that stayed locked with a padlock.

SEE EARLY REPORTS: Vanished Quitman County couple still missing after a year, signs point to foul play

According to testimony, Tubbs and another person who has not been named in court took Jones and Polk to the Taco Bell in Batesville. After that, they took them to a rural road where there was an ambush set up for them, officials said.

Grubbs and Coleman were originally arrested with Dezimond “Cutthroat” Green, who at the time was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of first degree murder in the case.

Tubbs allegedly told police that the only reason Polk was killed was because he was there with Jones. She allegedly told Clinton that she didn’t like Jones because they had a boyfriend in common, and she believed Jones was a snitch because she had seen her getting in a vehicle with a deputy. Clinton testified that Tubbs said she’d kill her again because she was a snitch alone.

“She hates snitches,” Clinton testified.

Allegedly, Tubbs didn’t participate in Polk’s dismemberment because she had liked him in life, but she admitted to being involved in cutting off Jones’ head and hands.

READ ABOUT THE INDICTMENTS: Five Indicted In Case Of Slain Quitman County Couple

Coleman has multiple children by multiple women, and at two of his children’s mothers were involved in the case, police said. As the others returned from Batesville, investigators said Coleman and Chelsea Golden set her car up to look as though she had broken down on the side of the road.

Tubbs, who was driving, stopped under the guise of helping Golden with her car, officials testified. When Jones and Polk got out of the car, Coleman pistol-whipped Jones and then began to shoot her. Clinton testified that she ran, and that Coleman continued to shoot her, telling officials he did so because “she wouldn’t go down.”

Polk raised his hands, witnesses told police, and said, “I’m not going to say anything,” to which Coleman allegedly said, “I know,” and shot him in the chest.

Once the two were dead, Coleman and Tubbs allegedly dismembered them, taking off their hands and heads and then burning the rest of their bodies with kerosene.

The dismembered body parts were taken to another of Coleman’s children’s mothers, Cierra Wheeler, who carried them in the trunk of her car until Coleman decided what to do with them, officials testified.

The prosecution held in the opening statement that Coleman was said to have “loyalty tests” for his girlfriends to make sure they wouldn’t sell him out in such a case. Wheeler allegedly told authorities that he showed her pictures of Polk’s and Jones’ remains and told her it could be her too if she didn’t cooperate.

“The state is trying to tell you a version where Keith Coleman is a mastermind, controlling women, trafficking drugs,” Coleman’s defense attorney Michael Carr said. “He lived in a trailer with his dad and the two mothers of his children. They have arrested the wrong person.”

Jones’ remains were finally put into a book bag with bricks and sunk in a swampy area behind Coleman’s house on Butler Road, Clinton testified that Coleman told him. Clinton said Coleman also told him that he ran out of bricks so he buried Polk’s remains in a shallow grave in some tall vegetation not far from his home.

Carr attempted to create a timeline of the case, and there was some confusion over what Clinton made sound like two investigations. One, he said, was the missing persons investigation conducted by former Quitman County Sheriff’s Department Detective Nick Turner and MBI Agent Cory Burrow. The other, he said, was the cold case he took on with Linzy. It’s unclear when one ended and the other began as at least one affidavit was signed by both Burrow and Clinton.

At issue with the timelines was, in part, the amount of time that passed from when the couple went missing and when arrests began being made. It also seemed that Carr was trying to establish that there were several other people who were allegedly involved in the kidnappings and killings that have not been charged by bringing up people who had been named in affidavits.

In May of 2021, Coleman, who was in jail on other charges, escaped from the Quitman County Jail. Officials said it was apparently because he knew his name had come up in the Jones and Polk investigation when Dale Gann and Haley Pierce were arrested after giving a false confession. Golden, Wheeler, and Coleman’s father, Keith Coleman Sr., were all charged in aiding his escape. He was caught in Craighead, Arkansas and brought back, and on the way home, he asked to speak to Clinton about the Jones and Polk case.

On June 1, police testified that Coleman took them to the ambush site, but he led them wrong a few times before a phone tip came in that Polk’s head and hands were buried on his property, Clinton said. Polk’s remains were found in that spot, officials said.

At one point Carr asked Clinton about the bodies of Jones and Polk, separate of their dismembered pieces, and whether they could have actually been burned, as testimony held.

“Does kerosene burn a body or would it be too wet?” he asked.

“I’ve never burned a body,” Clinton replied. “You’d have to ask your client that.”

At least three times during the cross-examination of Clinton, Tubbs’ attorney Chris Powell objected to Carr’s line of questioning because the language was including Tubbs as if it were fact that she was present and participating, when that’s actually what she was on trial to find out. The objections were sustained.

With the threat of impending weather, court adjourned at 4 p.m. It will resume Thursday at 8:30 a.m.


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