Ex-probation officer charged in 73-year-old’s stabbing pleads not guilty

Homicide News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Cherice Jones, 47, pleaded not guilty Friday to the murder of 73-year-old Rosie Lee Howard last year at the woman’s longtime home in Southeast Bakersfield.

Cherice Jones covers her face with a sheet of paper during her arraignment on June 11, 2021. / Photo: KGET

Jones and Howard were next-door neighbors, and arrest records show Jones was taken into custody at 1504 Cheatham — 6 months after she was accused of stabbing Howard and setting her house on fire.

“My mom, she was a good loving person, everybody liked her in the neighborhood, she had been there for years,” said Martannia Thompson, Howard’s daughter. “She helped any and everybody that she could, she was just really a good, loving person.”

She said Rosie Lee Howard lived on that street for nearly 40 years — cementing her name and the year she moved in on the pavement, along with the initials of her children. Jones moved in when she began dating Damen Foreman, whose family Thompson already knew.

Foreman, a parolee, had a relationship with Jones while she was still a deputy parole officer, a relationship that ended when Foreman was murdered in 2019. According to the Kern County Probation Department, Jones resigned in August 2020. The Department confirmed Jones’ employment but would not comment on if she had a disciplinary record.

Thompson said Foreman had seriously been turning his life around after leaving prison, becoming a regular churchgoer and working man. He and Jones had two children, and Thompson said her mother started keeping up with Jones after Foreman’s death. She would even make food or loan money to help Jones and the two kids, even when Jones’ behavior started to become more erratic. While an official motive wasn’t released, Thompson said Howard turned Foreman down when she asked for money, just days leading up to the alleged murder.

“That same weekend we were supposed to buy a Christmas tree, we were supposed to go Christmas shopping, and we couldn’t even do that,” Thompson said, wiping away tears outside the Superior Court building in Downtown Bakersfield. “She took everything, she took everything from us in one night, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair.”

Thompson said she saw Jones walking away from the home the night of the stabbing. The two happened to cross paths just after Thompson had pulled up to the home, before she realized something was wrong.

“I knew something was wrong when I twisted the doorknob and my mom didn’t come to the door.”

Thompson couldn’t get inside, but saw the flames from a window. She couldn’t break into the house, and drove off to get her brother’s help. But by then, the smoke was too strong for either of them to do anything.

Even with law enforcement on scene, Thompson says Jones was still there in the evening. But during an emotional night, Thompson ended up being the one in handcuffs.

“I had seen her again, she went home and she came back, and she was walking back, and all I remember was jumping on her and trying to tear her hair off,” Thompson said. “And I think the police and my brother intercepted that, and I was put in handcuffs and had to sit down for awhile.”

Thompson said she was placed in a patrol car until she was able to calm down. But she wasn’t ignored.

“The detective was the only one who listened to me,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the last half-year has been “hell,” and full of nightmares, knowing what she knew while Jones was still around. Jones, represented by the public defender’s office, pleaded not guilty to her charges in court. She’s due back in court July 16.

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