CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — The University of Virginia student accused of opening fire on a charter bus on campus, fatally shooting three members of the school’s football team and wounding two other students, made his first in-person court appearance in this case on Thursday.
A shackled Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr., 23, was led into the courtroom by deputies who stood in front of him, blocking him from the view of the rest of the court. The day after the deadly Nov. 13 shooting, Jones was taken into custody in Henrico County after a 12-hour, multi-jurisdictional manhunt.
Jones faces three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony in connection to the killing of Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler. Jones also faces two counts of malicious wounding and firearm charges in connection to the two other students — Marlee Morgan and Michael Hollins — injured in the shooting.
Jones’ preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 30 at 9 a.m. During that court appearance, new evidence and witness testimony is typically introduced, at which point the case could be sent to a grand jury, if the judge decides there is enough probable cause that Jones committed the killings. In court Thursday, the Commonwealth’s Attorney said there is a “large number of witnesses” in the case, and that he would continue to consult with defense counsel.
At Jones’ previous court date, he appeared via video chat from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail where he’s being held. It was during that November appearance that Jones told the judge he planned to hire his own attorney. The judge appointed Public Defender Liz Murtagh in the interim.
During Thursday’s status hearing, Jones was still being represented by Murtagh, who declined to comment on the case publicly.
“You heard what I heard, too, if you were in the courtroom,” she told reporters. “I’m the Public Defender, so I’m not retained.”
The presiding judge instructed Jones to stay in contact with Murtagh, who added that the suspect could hire his own counsel at any time.
As he was escorted out of the courtroom Thursday morning, Jones kept his head down and could be seen occasionally licking his lips. Outside of the building, sheriff’s deputies walked Jones into a vehicle that had parked under an overhang to take him back to the jail, shielding the suspect from public view.
Jones has not yet entered a plea.
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