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Woman pleads guilty in aggravated murder case

In an unexpected turn of events, Belinda S. Adkins admitted to shooting her ex-husband to death during what was supposed to be a custody exchange in January.

Instead of her trial being heard by a jury in the court room of Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard on Monday morning, she pleaded guilty to an aggravated murder charge and a gun specification, an offer she had turned down on Nov. 27 at a pretrial hearing. In return for the plea, a second charge of murder was dropped.

Adkins was accused of shooting her ex-husband, Joshua C. Jones, multiple times around 4:20 p.m. on Jan. 23 in the parking lot of the McDonald’s in South Point. Jones died of his injuries a few hours later at a hospital.

Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said he was fully prepared to take the case to trial for five days and had 20 witnesses lined up, as well as maps of her location on Jan. 23 that were pulled from her phone data.

He said early on Monday morning, Adkins’ attorney, J. Roger Smith II, said that she wanted to change her plea from not guilty and plead to the indictment and the prosecutor’s office would recommend life in prison with the opportunity to go before a parole board after 23 years.

“There was a substantial amount of evidence,” Anderson said. “She murdered Josh Jones in the parking lot of McDonald’s in South Point, Ohio at 4:20 in the afternoon.”

He said the evidence was that she retrieved a firearm from her father, a .38 Special, and shot him five times after a seven-minute conversation.

Another twist was that Anderson said Adkins had used her phone to record the conversation between her and Jones. He said there was audio, but the camera didn’t record video of the shooting.

“In the conversation, he was very nice with her, he was very cooperative to her. There was never any aggression shown by him. In fact, he said ‘I am going to pray for you. I love our kids, I want to do what is best for our kids.’” Anderson said. “Without any warning, a shot is fired. You hear Mr. Jones groan and then her state ‘Die’ with an expletive. And then four more shots are fired into the body of Josh Jones.”

He said the coroner was going to testify that five .38 caliber bullets were recovered from Jones’ body.

The three minor children now live with family members.

As part of the proceedings, Adkins had to allocate to the charge.

Anderson asked Adkins whether she and Jones were divorced and if that on Jan. 17, there was a hearing as to the custody of their three children, who are under the age of 18.

Adkins said yes.

Anderson asked if she was present at that hearing and then left in the middle of it.

Adkins said yes.

Anderson then asked if on Jan. 23, Adkins got the ruling of the hearing in which custody of the children were given to Jones.

She later got a phone call from Jones to set up a meeting at the South Point McDonald’s to transfer one of the children to Jones.

He already had custody of the other two children.

Adkins said yes.

“You didn’t bring the child, did you?” asked Anderson.

Adkins said no.

“You did bring a .38 caliber handgun,” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

Anderson asked if she had previously dropped the child off at a grandparent’s house and Adkins said yes.

Anderson then asked if she went to exchange and taped the eight-minute conversation with Jones on her cell phone.

“Yes,” Adkins said.

“And you went there with the intent to shoot him, didn’t you,” Anderson asked.

She admitted to shooting him five times with the intent to kill him.

The court then recessed until 1 p.m. Monday for the sentencing, which is after The Ironton Tribune’s print deadline.