Laurel grand jury to hear case of man charged with rape of three teens

Nita Johnson, The Sentinel Echo, London, Ky.
·2 min read

Feb. 15—A man charged with raping three teens will now have his case presented to a Laurel grand jury in April.

Dana Jones, 58, of Old Whitley Road in London, was set for a preliminary hearing in Laurel District Court on Tuesday. During the hearing, Judge Wendell "Skip" Hammons ruled that probable cause of felony offenses existed, thus sending the case for evidence presentation before the grand jury.

Jones was arrested on Jan. 31 during a welfare check at his home with the report that a 14-year-old female was at his residence. When Laurel County Sheriff's officials went to the scene, they found the teen, who said that Jones had raped and sexually assaulted her. Sheriff's officials also discovered pornographic materials involving teens on Jones' phone. He was charged with one count of first-degree rape, one count of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of possession/viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.

Jones was additionally charged with two more counts of first-degree rape and one count of third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor on Feb. 4 after it was learned that Jones had had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old female and had given her alcohol at his residence. The remaining count of first-degree rape involved a 19-year-old female.

All three cases were heard on Tuesday, with all three being referred to the grand jury for possible indictment. The grand jury hears the evidence presented by witnesses and/or law enforcement personnel involved in the case and decides whether a felony offense has been committed. If indicted, the court hearing process begins again — the accused is charged and undergoes an arraignment hearing with bond being set. Then the defense and prosecuting attorneys gather evidence for future hearings in the case, or pretrial conferences.

That hearing before the grand jury, however, will not be held until April since Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton has postponed those gatherings in a notice to prosecuting attorneys last month. That decision also alleviates the state's policy that anyone accused of a felony must have their cases heard and be indicted within a 60-day period. The postponement of grand jury meetings are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has restricted group gatherings and closing of public access to court proceedings. Court appearances are now conducted through Zoom meetings to ensure the safety of the public and court officials.