She was known as “Baby Bones” for seven years, as investigators struggled to put a name to the little girl whose skeletal remains and Tweety Bird satchel were found in a wooded area of New Jersey. Now the girl’s aunt, uncle and the aunt’s former companion are under arrest, and Baby Bones has a name: Jon-Niece Jones, who was 9 when she died in New York City.
The mystery, which was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” in 2009, reportedly began unraveling recently after police received tips about the case, including one that enabled them to compare DNA of the remains to a living relative and make a connection.
Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Marc C. LeMieux would not give details of the information that led to the case being cracked, but the New York Times said it was Jon-Niece’s sister, Iyonna Jones, who came forward with the vital information.
The sister, who is now 21, reportedly told police that Jon-Niece had died in August 2002 in their Harlem home after being abused by their now-deceased mother, and that relatives had bundled the body into a car and driven off to find a place to hide it.
On Wednesday, New Jersey officials announced that Jon-Niece’s aunt, Likisha Jones, 39, of Manhattan; her uncle, James Jones, 35, of Brooklyn; and Godfrey Gibson, 48, of Manhattan, who had been the aunt’s boyfriend when Jon-Niece died, had been arrested on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and tampering with evidence in connection with the dumping of the girl’s body.
The three appeared in handcuffs in a Freehold, N.J., courtroom on Wednesday and were held on bail ranging from $40,000 to $75,000.
The three have not been charged in Jon-Niece’s death, but prosecutors Wednesday made clear that authorities hold them responsible for the girl’s grim fate even if it was her mother, Elisha Jones, who was carrying out the abuse. Elisha Jones died in December 2002.
“The family members ... turned a blind eye to the constant physical and mental abuse this girl endured for years,” Col. Rick Fuentes, the superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said in a statement announcing the arrests.
The case so frustrated law enforcement officials that they had a forensic artist use the bones to create a bust depicting the girl’s face and featured it on an episode of “America’s Most Wanted.”
But nobody seemed to recognize the girl, and the case remained cold until the new information came in during the summer.