Florence police have rearrested Clifton Lamont Jones of Florence after a Pinal County grand jury issued an arrest warrant for murder 1st degree in the death of a toddler he babysat.
The arrest warrant July 16 was the result of a months-long investigation of the death of Valerie Frias, 17 months, of Florence. The child died from injuries received while in the care of Jones, 34, in March, Florence police said in an announcement of the arrest.
Pinal County Attorney spokesman Jim Knupp said the autopsy report indicates the cause of death as “Complications of Blunt Head Injuries” and the manner of death as “Homicide.”
Jones was arrested without incident at the Florence Police Department and was booked into jail on the warrant on July 16.
The child’s family said in a statement:
“We are overwhelmed with emotions right now. It has been very difficult to wait patiently for answers. Every day is a difficult day without our baby girl Valerie, but at least right now we feel a step has been taken on the road to justice for Val.
“We know this will be a long and difficult road for our family but we will do what we need to defend our daughter. She is the one and only victim here! But that is our job now, to be Valerie’s voice and to make sure she gets justice. All truth will be revealed in God’s time! Thank you to all who have supported her and us and to all who will continue to support us through this difficult journey.”
Valerie is the daughter of Robert and Dalila Frias, and sister of Jasmine, 8, and Adriana, who is now 6. Jones occasionally babysat Valerie last year but had been her full-time babysitter since January.
The sheriff’s website Tuesday afternoon indicated that Jones was still in jail in lieu of $250,000 secured bond.
Jones was initially arrested in March, days after the child’s death, but was released about nine days later. His attorney, Bret Huggins, said he was “very offended” by Jones’ rearrest all these months later.
He said Jones had the right to keep his mouth shut, but instead provided anything any judge or prosecutor ever asked for. In return, when they were ready to arrest Jones, “we’re not allowed to know about it or be heard.” Huggins said he has filed a motion for Jones’ immediate release.
The attorney said he has not received a record of what was used to obtain the indictment, but they’ve not properly evaluated the scientific evidence. “A charge, mistakenly brought, can destroy families and communities, and I’m scared about that.”
He noted Jones grew up in Florence, played football for Arizona State University and has never been in trouble with the law. The current charge against him “is different from everything we know about him.
“... To me, the people involved have not acted with the honor and professionalism that people in this community have a right to expect.”
On March 14 the child was flown to Phoenix Children’s Hospital in serious condition, and medical staff was concerned for what they believed to be her non-accidental injuries, police said. Detectives of the Florence Police Department responded to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital to initiate an investigation.
The next day at 3 p.m., the child died at the hospital. She was later transported to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner to determine cause of death.
Florence Police Chief Daniel Hughes said, “I look at it as a tragedy both for the little girl’s family and for the family of Clifton Jones.”
Hughes said the delay between the death and the arrest likely owes to the fact it takes that long for the medical examiner to obtain test results and complete the report. He referred further questions to the County Attorney, who he said will have primary responsibility for the case from now on.
Florence Police detectives were assisted by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Child-Protective Services, and Investigators from the Child Welfare Investigative Unit Arizona Department of Economic Security DES and the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office.