CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Eleven years ago, on a cold morning in 2011, a driver spotted a man lying along Interstate 275 near the Petersburg exit in Boone County. The man wasn’t wearing clothes except socks and underwear — and he was dead.
Police identified him as 29-year-old Brian Jones of Cincinnati. They were unsure whether he’d died at the scene or if he had been dumped there, but the single gunshot wound in his head left little doubt as to the cause of death.
A homicide investigation started almost immediately. It continues eleven years later, as does the grief felt by members of Jones’s family.
Shauna Tremble was Jones’s older sister. Bridgette Gee was his cousin.
“We have our moments where we just break down,” Tremble said.
The pair describe Jones as a flashy man with a big, loving personality.
“The community knows him as ‘Big Boy’ because he’s a big, hefty teddy bear,” Gee said, adding Jones was more of a brother to her than a cousin.
Tremble recalls being incredulous when she was first told her younger brother was dead.
“‘What are you talking about?’” She reprised. “‘Ya’ll lying. It’s not true. Where are you getting your information from?’”
Unfortunately, the information was accurate: Jones was dead. But as to the cause and manner of his death, no one could tell Tremble at the time.
There’s more to tell today, according to Boone County Sheriff’s Office Det. Coy Cox. The investigation hasn’t turned up an arrest, but more is known about the circumstances of Jones’s life leading up to that cold January morning.
Around the time Jones was found, a man reportedly walked into the Cincinnati Police Department asking to speak with officers.
“He was getting these phone calls from a guy who said, ‘I have Brian. You need to pay me x amount of dollars, or I’m going to kill him,’” Cox explained.
Cox says the man who went to CPD was a business associate of Jones’s. He also says drugs may have played a part in the 29-year-old’s death.
“It revealed that [Jones] owed money to someone and he had called — the individual who was making the phone call had called — the drug dealer that Brian worked for and said, ‘You either pay this amount of money by this time or we’re going to kill him,’” Cox reasoned.
Tremble and Gee feel some people brushed off Jones’s death because of his criminal past.
“He was just murdered, thrown on the side of the road in his socks and boxers, and y’all have to bring this up? That really hurt. That... that hurts,’ Tremble said.
“No matter what someone does, in the end, they’re still human,” Gee added. “But I wouldn’t have ever guess it to happen, because he was so kind to plenty of people and he loved plenty of people.”
Authorities heard similar sentiments during the investigation, though they were more often plied as roadblocks than tributes.
“Cincinnati PD interviewed lots of people in this case,” Cox recalled, “but no one would say anything other than, ‘Brian’s a nice guy, and that’s all I got to say.’”
Authorities caught an early break in the investigation when they succeeded in obtaining a voice recording of the phone call — the phone call Jones’s alleged drug-dealer boss received from someone ransoming Jones’s life. They also had a person they thought might have been the caller.
The recording was sent to the FBI, but it did little good.
“We have not been able to get any information back from them that has been of value to the case,” Cox said. “In other words, [...] we gave them who we thought it was on the phone to try to compare the voice, but we haven’t had any luck with that.”
With the case stalled on key details, Jones’s family says they are having trouble moving on from the heartbreak.
“It’s hard. It’s really hard,” Tremble said. “Like, you get choked up talking about it. Like, I think it’s more frustrating because we don’t know who did it.”
“He needs justice,” Gee said. “We need justice. His family needs justice. Justice for Brian Jones.”