A trial date has been set for the former University of Virginia student accused of murdering three of his schoolmates in 2022.
The trial of Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. is set to take place over three weeks in early 2025.
According to people familiar with the case, the timing was preset between Albemarle County Circuit Court and Jones’ legal team in advance of Monday’s "docket call," a bimonthly confab at which hearing and trial schedules are determined.
Jones stands accused of shooting five unsuspecting or sleeping students inside a chartered bus that had returned to UVa Grounds from a field trip in Washington, D.C., the night of Nov. 13, 2022. The gunfire killed three students — Cavalier football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry — and injured two others — Marlee Morgan and Michael Hollins.
Hollins was a teammate of the slain. He has since made a full recovery and managed to return to the football field for his senior year in what UVa Coach Tony Elliott called “a walking miracle."
Jones, himself, was a former UVa walk-on football player, but he reportedly never played a game.
Initially facing three counts of second-degree murder, Jones saw his charges upgraded in September after a special grand jury approved three counts of aggravated murder, a charge whose conviction carries a mandatory life sentence in prison.
Since he made an appearance via video from Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to hear the upgraded charges, Jones has received an additional lawyer versed in severe criminal cases, and he has provided the court with a motion that points to a mental health defense.
Veteran attorney Douglas Ramseur, who specialized in capital cases before Virginia abolished the death penalty, joined Jones’ legal team in October. He joins lawyers from the Office of the Public Defender already representing Jones, who the court has declared indigent.
Shortly before Ramseur’s appointment, Jones’ legal team won approval to hire Jeffrey Aaron as a mental health expert. A clinical and forensic psychologist on the UVa medical faculty with a history of providing expert testimony, Aaron may assert that Jones suffers from a mental defect that would limit his culpability.
As revealed by The Daily Progress after the shooting, police found that Jones, in contravention of school policy, kept two guns in his on-Grounds dormitory room. A search warrant inventory showed that officers seized a pistol, a semiautomatic rifle, ammunition and a device designed to multiply trigger pulls.
University Police Chief Tim Longo also conceded after the attack that the school had been alerted that Jones had a gun and had not fully investigated a report that Jones had not disclosed a prior criminal conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.
The school has faced sharp criticism for its failure to respond earlier.
Since the shooting, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has commissioned and closed a third-party review of what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. That review was turned over to university officials in October. Those officials had promised to release the report to the public in early November, but later announced that they would be withholding the report until sometime after Jones’ criminal trial.
That trial is slated to run from Jan. 22 to Feb. 12, 2025.
Jones, now 24, has been held without bail at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail since his arrest. In addition to the aggravated murder charges, he faces firearms and aggravated malicious wounding charges.