A Sherman man who was convicted this week on a count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver methamphetamine could end up doing time for killing his long-time girlfriend who died back in January of 2018.
Prosecutor Britton Brooks is trying to enhance John Francis Kennedy’s punishment on the drug charge by doing what is called “proving up” the elements of the unindicted murder charge. If the jury buys into the theory, they can increase the bottom rung of the punishment for which Kennedy, 59, is eligible for from five years to life in prison to 25 years to life in prison.
Brooks started the process Tuesday by presenting the jury of five men and seven women with evidence of Kennedy’s prior run ins with the law stating he was a “life-long drug dealer and life-long felon.” Though fingerprint expert Dennis Michael of the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office testified that the fingerprints on each of three felony conviction packets for Kennedy’s convictions were in fact, Kennedy’s fingerprints, Kennedy refused to sign the card attesting to that fact. Brooks said that didn’t matter because the fingerprints prove that the convictions were Kennedy’s.
Kennedy’s defense attorney Gregg Gibbs said refusing to sign the card was his client’s right to do. And Gibbs said, that the prosecutor was taking liberties with the term “life-long” considering that most of those crimes were committed between 2014-2019. That, he said, hardly qualifies for life long status.
Jurors spent most of the day Tuesday hearing from John Francis Kennedy himself via video taped conversations he had with Sherman police personnel in January of last year. They were discussing the injuries sustained by and ultimately the death of Rhonda Jordan, a woman with whom Kennedy had lived with since getting out of prison in October of that year. She had also been released from prison that month. The two, testimony would reveal, have had a long history of breaking up and getting back together over the last 11 years or so.
Testimony also revealed that in the early morning hours of Jan. 6, 2018, police were called to a house in the 600 block of South Contemporary in Sherman to check on a woman who was reported to be slumped over on a bench in the front yard. That report, jurors would ultimately hear, came from Kennedy and the woman was Jordan. She was rushed to Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center and then flown to a Dallas hospital where she died.
Just what led to her death and what role Kennedy played in that is at the heart of the sentencing hearing. Brooks contends that Kennedy choked her and struck her in the face and head causing the injuries that claimed her life. Gibbs countered that the injuries shown in her autopsy look more like a brain aneurysm than a beating.
Jurors heard the phone call Kennedy made alerting authorities to Jordan’s condition and they heard hours of questioning he underwent at the hands of Sherman Detective Jamie Beneto. At first Kennedy denied really knowing what had happened to Jordan. Then he eventually began to tell of a fight that broke out after he got off work on Jan. 5. Though he repeatedly said she started the fight by getting in his face, he eventually admitted that it had started when he questioned her about her interaction with a man from whom she had purchased washing machine earlier in that day. Jordan, Kennedy said repeatedly, was strung out on meth that day and had been up for days. He said he sent her out to buy the machine from a man he had contacted on a social media market page.
He said she called him at work later saying she had lost the money he gave her to buy the machine but had come home with it anyway because the man trusted her. He said they started arguing and she got in his face and struck him. He said he then grabbed her by the throat and put her down on the bed. He said they continued to fight until he was able to get away from her and take her wallet to get his money out of it and left. He said he then returned for his truck and then left again and drove to Oklahoma.
That was the first story.
Over time and under guidance from Beneto, the story changed a little bit at a time until finally, he admitted that he had been jealous because she had not answered her phone for several hours that day and he had feared that she had engaged in sexual activity with the man who was selling the washer. Beneto testified that Kennedy had called Jordan’s phone no less than 36 times.
Beneto said Kennedy was trying to tell what had actually happened, he just couldn’t bring himself to admit it. He reminded Kennedy that he had already admitted that he had “lost it” when she hit him and that he choked her till her face was red. The detective said Kennedy would feel better if he would just admit what happened because the detective knew that Kennedy had not meant to hurt Jordan.
Kennedy stuck to his story, sort of, by saying if he did do anything like that, he couldn’t remember it and hadn’t meant to do it.
Gibbs will get a chance to question the detective starting Wednesday morning the 59th state district court with Judge Larry Phillips presiding.