MARTINEZ — A Georgia man who killed an East Bay resident while attempting to steal a large amount of marijuana from the victim’s home was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole last week.
Keith Jones, 31, shot and killed 23-year-old Oshry Elor during a scuffle at Elor’s Pleasant Hill home in April 2018. Jones would later claim that he believed Elor had tricked him into smoking laced marijuana, and that he shot Elor in self-defense.
At the end of his trial, Jones was convicted of murder, robbery, and related enhancements, making him eligible for a sentence of life without parole.
At sentencing, held in a virtual courtroom because of COVID-19, Elor’s family spoke at length, describing him as “our gentle giant” and family man who loved football, weightlifting, and playing the trumpet.
“In middle school, Oshry would break up fights between classmates and take them to the principal’s office,” a written statement by the Elor family said. “Mothers often asked Oshry to be friends with their sons in order to help protect them from bullies.”
Jones’ co-defendant, Luther Lee, received a much different fate. Convicted of involuntary manslaughter in his trial, Lee was formally sentenced to four years in prison. Because he spent two years in jail awaiting trial, and racked up time credits for good behavior, he was freed from jail last week, authorities said.
At the time of the shooting, Lee was roughly 100 miles away in a Sacramento hotel. Prosecutors argued during trial that he was culpable for the murder because he helped set Elor up to be robbed. A jury acquitted Lee of murder, convicting him only of the lesser offense.
According to police, Lee, Keith Jones, his girlfriend, and a third man, Terry Jones, traveled from Georgia to California after arranging a multi-pound marijuana purchase from Elor, who Lee knew from when he attended college in Sacramento.
In April 2018, the four arrived in Sacramento and booked a hotel. On April 7, 2018, Terry and Keith Jones (no relation) went to Pleasant Hill to meet with Elor at his home, on the 2100 block of Norse Drive, purportedly to pick up the marijuana.
Prosecutors say it was a ruse and they intended to rob Elor the whole time.
Keith Jones went into the home alone. Terry Jones would later testify he heard a gunshot, then Keith ran from the home a few moments later. Witnesses inside Elor’s home said that Keith pulled a gun during the transaction and attempted to leave with the marijuana, but that Elor grabbed the gun and a struggle ensued.
During the struggle the gun went off. Elor was shot once, but he still managed to pull the pistol out of Keith Jones’ hands. He succumbed to his injuries after Jones fled.
The group wasn’t arrested until days later, when an Arizona state trooper recognized their car and tried to pull them over. The vehicle briefly stopped and everyone but Keith Jones exited. Jones then led police on a chase that reached speeds of 120 miles per hour, and ended when officers deployed a spike strip on the car, just east of the New Mexico border.
Elor began using marijuana as a form of pain medication after a football injury, his family wrote, and eventually started selling it.
“(Elor) enjoyed weed art, weed culture, and the social aspect of selling weed. We all encouraged him to pursue a different lifestyle and career, but Oshry was adamant,” the family’s letter says. “We believed that given enough time and patience, he would grow up. Oshry, however, never had the chance.”
Terry Jones ultimately became a state’s witness, and testified against Keith Jones and Lee during trial. For his cooperation, he was given a four-year jail term, a sentence that, ironically, turned out to be identical to Lee’s.