NORRISTOWN — A Philadelphia man showed no emotion as a jury convicted him of fatally stabbing his pregnant girlfriend and killing their unborn child during a “brutal” attack inside the woman’s Cheltenham apartment.
Tristian Jones, 36, of the 900 block of East Johnson Street, was convicted on Tuesday in Montgomery County Court of charges of first-degree murder, murder of an unborn child and possessing an instrument of crime in connection with the Feb. 19, 2018, fatal stabbing of Eboney N. White, 31, and her unborn child in her apartment in the 2000 block of Mather Way in the Elkins Park section of Cheltenham.
White was 7½ months pregnant with Jones’s child at the time of her death. The fetus did not survive the attack.
White’s mother and other relatives wept and hugged each other after the verdict was announced. Grieving relatives described White as "bright, articulate and beautiful," and as a woman who "had everything to live for."
“You didn’t have to slaughter her the way you did. She loved you,” Ernestine Scott, White’s mother, tearfully addressed Jones before the judge imposed his punishment.
The jury deliberated just over two hours before reaching the verdict.
Judge Wendy G. Rothstein, who presided over the trial, immediately sentenced Jones to consecutive life prison terms for the two deaths.
“The jury determined you are a cold blooded killer. There is no justification for your conduct. It was brutal. Both victims deserved better. Both victims deserve justice,” Rothstein addressed Jones, adding he appeared to lack remorse.
Jones addressed the courtroom before learning his fate and continued to maintain his innocence.
#MontcoPa Judge Wendy G. Rothstein imposed consecutive life prison terms against Tristian Jones, 36, of #Philly who was convicted of killing his pregnant #Cheltenham girlfriend & her unborn child during brutal stabbing. pic.twitter.com/6mLTDuWj8w— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) March 5, 2019
“I’m just sorry the truth wasn’t able to come out today,” Jones, seated next to defense lawyer Carrie L. Allman, said, adding, “Eboney was a great person.”
Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kemp argued for the consecutive life prison terms against Jones, suggesting such a sentence would be a “symbolic gesture” for the two precious lives that were lost.
“We did not just have one life that was brutally taken by the defendant. We have two,” argued Kemp, who was assisted at trial by co-prosecutor Alexandria MacMaster.
Mary Pugh, a victim advocate representing White’s 13-year-old daughter, who witnessed a portion of the attack, read a statement from the little girl.
“I knew that there would be justice for my mother,” the little girl wrote. “Life without mom is painful.”
An investigation began when Cheltenham police responded to White’s apartment at 3:20 a.m. Feb. 19 after receiving a 911 call from her then 12-year-old daughter, who had retreated to a bathroom after seeing a man stabbing her mother, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Todd Richard and Cheltenham Detective Ronald Cupo.
Tristian Jones, 36, of #Philly showed no emotion as jury announced #GUILTY verdicts at his #trial for the Feb. 19, 2018, fatal stabbing of his pregnant girlfriend, Eboney White, 31, and her unborn child in #Cheltenham. pic.twitter.com/bc4YKMgOrE— Carl Hessler Jr. (@MontcoCourtNews) March 5, 2019
Police found White dead in the master bedroom with multiple stab wounds to her torso. White’s 12- and 7-year-old daughters, who also were in the apartment, were unharmed.
White’s daughter who made the 911 call told authorities she was in bed but was awakened by the sound of screaming. The girl told detectives she went to her mother’s bedroom and saw a man, wearing a grey sweatshirt, hood and a mask covering the lower portion of his face, stabbing her mother with a knife.
The girl testified at trial that the killer had a similar build, stance and mannerisms as her mother’s boyfriend, whom she referred to as “Mr. Tristian.”
Jones did not testify at the trial.
But Allman suggested the child made assumptions about Jones being the killer and that prosecutors had insufficient evidence to prove Jones committed the crime.
Allman also suggested another man White dated in the past and who abused her in the past could be the killer.
When he was interviewed by detectives on Feb. 19, Jones stated that while he is married, he and White had been dating since spring 2017 and she was carrying his child, who was due in early April 2018, according to the arrest affidavit. Jones allegedly said the two had discussed introducing their children to each other on the day of White’s death and that she had been “mad” he was not ending his marriage.
In the two days leading up to White’s death, a string of text messages revealed White and Jones discussing their unborn child — whom they called Travis — and his impact on their families. They discussed how to talk to their other children about their affair, with Jones writing he “committed a sin” and seeming to struggle with how he would teach his children “fornication is a sin” when that is what he had committed.
“I don’t want any of the kids including yours thinking sex before marriage is okay,” Jones, a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses denomination, wrote in one text message, according to court papers.
Prosecutors alleged Jones lied to White when he claimed he had informed his family that White was pregnant with his child.
But Allman argued having an affair and lying to a girlfriend or a wife is not a crime and did not make Jones a killer.
Detectives alleged Jones gave inconsistent descriptions of the clothing he had been wearing Feb. 18 and 19 and about his whereabouts around the time of the killing.