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Jury gets peek into lurid drug underworld

Witnesses testifying in the murder trial of Jonathan Dye Jones talk about their lives as crack addicts.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

DADE CITY -- The way Heather Marie Price and Toya Hicks tell it, the cocaine underground has its own language, but every word, every person, every action means the same thing.

It's all about the next high.

Price and Hicks testified Saturday at the murder trial of Jonathan Dye Jones.

Jones, 36, is accused of first-degree murder in the Jan. 6, 2001, death of Dade City orange grove supervisor Florentino Cano, 47, shot dead in a crack cocaine hustle that turned violent.

Price, 26, and Hicks, 32, were the first witnesses. The two offered jurors a lurid look into the world of crack cocaine, where friends are potential targets, everything from sex to old clothes can be sold for another fix, and nothing is so bad that it can't be smoothed over with a blast of cocaine.

Cano's murder started with a chance encounter, the women said.

They were riding around with Jones, 36, in his big, white pickup truck. They cruised through town, bought "rocks" of crack, smoked them, then went crusing for more.

"That's basically what we do. We ride around, that's just that world," Hicks testified. "We rode around, walked around, rock to rock, house to house, one end of Dade City to the other."

When they ran out of drugs and money, the women said they started scheming on how to get more of both.

They wanted to do a "lick" -- the underground word for theft -- so they could "cop" -- the underground word for finding more cocaine -- Price said.

They saw Cano drive by, Price said. He was a friend and he sometimes paid for sex.

"He waved and I waved," Price said. "I said, 'Now that's somebody we can get. He always has a lot of money on him."'

The women formed a plan. They would offer to "trick" -- the underground word for prostitution -- and then steal Cano's wallet when he was distracted, Price testified.

Hicks said she wasn't sure how it would work, it was her first "lick mission."

The women said Jones took them to Cano's mobile home. Instead of trying to trick with him right off, they asked if he would buy them crack. He agreed and drove them to a dealer. Later, they came back to the mobile home with drugs. Price said she had hidden some of the score from Hicks, her best friend, so she could get an extra share.

Then things happened fast, the women said.

Price and Cano argued about money when the sex she promised didn't work out. She grabbed his wallet, he grabbed the wallet, and the two wrestled.

Hicks jumped in, and then Cano's roommate jumped in. And then Jones, who had been outside, strode into the mobile home with a .22-caliber pistol.

Hicks said Jones pointed the gun at Cano.

"When I looked up, Florentino was holding his hands up like this, saying 'Hey now. Hey now,"' Price said. "I heard a gunshot. Florentino grabbed his chest and fell to the floor."

Jones started to walk away, Hicks said.

"He stops at the door, turns around, walks back into the bedroom and he shoots again: bang, bang, bang, bang, bang," she said.

Stunned by the shooting, the women said they got into Jones' truck, Price screaming and pounding the dashboard and crying that her life was over.

They went looking for more crack.

Jones faces a life prison sentence if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.

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