America’s ‘Youngest’ Killers Were Set Free, and one of the two killers ‘Catherine’ is happily married!
It was almost exactly 16 years ago in Port St. John, Florida, when Catherine Jones and her brother Curtis became the youngest children in U.S. history to be charged as adults for first-degree murder. Before they were out of middle school, they were in prison — a place that was, in many ways, safer than their actual home.
As children, both Curtis and Catherine were victims of constant sexual abuse at the hands of a family member.
“He would make me perform oral sex to the point where I would throw up,” Catherine said in a 2009 interview with Florida Today’s John A. Torres.
Catherine told Torres that her mother left her father after years of domestic abuse. Soon afterward, the relative who would become their attacker moved in. A man who was previously convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old girl was now sharing a bed with young Curtis.
The abuse didn’t go unnoticed by authorities. Just four months before the murder, an organization that is now called the Department of Children and Families documented proof that the children were being attacked. However, the reports were never investigated and the truth was laid to rest.
And so the children took matters into their own hands, plotting to kill their abuser as well as the adults who didn’t protect them: their father and his girlfriend, Nicole Speights. In January 1999, a 12-year-old Curtis used his dad’s shotgun to kill Nicole. Catherine, then 13, wiped the fingerprints off the gun. The siblings then fled to the woods, where they hid until authorities found them.
Without trial, they pled guilty to first-degree murder, and were sentenced to 18 years and life probation.
Fast-forward to 2015, and if she continues on her 16-year streak of good behavior, Catherine will emerge into the real world on July 28th. She’s a 30-year-old woman who’s never experienced the things most of us consider a part of daily life — like sending a text message.
As Catherine approaches her release, she reflects on life outside of prison. She told Torres,
“Of course there are fears, mainly because there’s so much I must learn to function like a normal person: how to drive, fill out job applications, text dress for a job interview, build my credit, obtain life, dental, medical insurance. I’m completely clueless. The idea of being 30 and completely dependent on others to teach me how to do these basic things isn’t appealing. I’ll leave prison just as clueless as I was at 13.”
But she won’t be alone.
Two years ago, Catherine married a man who read about her plight in Torres’ original 2009 article. Senior Chief Ramous K. Fleming of the U.S. Navy reached out to Catherine; the two became pen pals, and eventually lovers. They were wed on November 27, 2013 in a chapel at the Hernando Correctional Institution. Catherine’s husband has since retired from the Navy so that he can help her adjust to the 21st century.
“I’m prepared for life after. There is a lot she has to learn but it’s very exciting at the same time. I look forward to it and I think my training in the military has prepared me for it. There will certainly be a lot of adjusting to do.”
Curtis will be out soon, too, but he had a year added to his sentence back in 2004 when he tried to escape after a hurricane.