Convicted killer sasses judge at sentencing

Darrell Jones tried to withdraw plea connected to stabbing at Grandville hotel

Kent County Circuit Court Judge Mark Trusock sentences Darrell Jones to prison for the murder of Ernest Willingham. (Nov. 14, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who stabbed a father to death following a late-night argument at a Grandville motel will spend the next 25 to 100 years in prison.

At a sentencing hearing Tuesday, the defendant remained defiant, hurling insults at the judge even as he was being led away.

A single stab to the chest killed 47-year-old Ernest Willingham at the Landmark Hotel in April. His convicted killer, Darrell Jones, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in October.

But before Jones was sentenced, he tried to withdraw his plea, claiming he was on jail-administered medication when he entered it. The judge was having none of it.

“You have no remorse whatsoever,” Kent County Circuit Court Judge Mark Trusock told Jones.

The judge told the defendant that his crime was shocking as he handed down the maximum sentence.

For the victim’s family, it felt like some measure of justice.

“He knew he stabbed my son and my son is dead and not to take any responsibility for that … I can’t even comprehend,” said Willingham’s mother, Jean Anderson.

Willingham left behind a 13-year-old son.

“We can share with him all the good things about his father,” Anderson said. “I want them to remember how much he loved his family.”

Jones claimed he acted in self-defense.

“I apologize to the family if they feel I didn’t show remorse for the man who woke me up at 2 in the morning to attack me,” Jones said. “Had I not defended myself, I might not be here.”

Jones also said he called for help and accused the judge of not caring about justice.

The judge and the convicted killer exchanged words as Jones was led away by court deputies.

“Every day you’re sitting in prison, I hope you think about the pain you’ve caused this family,” Trusock told Jones.

“I hope you think about me getting attacked,” Jones retorted. “Scumbag.”

Willingham’s family said their faith calls for them to forgive.

“We understand that this is what God would have us do and we going to pray that he would admit what he has done for his own salvation,” Anderson said.