Brittany Jones fled La Crosse early June 2 to savor another day with a man wanted for homicide.
Mitrel Anderson is all she has. Her father was murdered decades ago, her mother is sitting in jail. And Jones wasn’t ready to lose her boyfriend yet.
She never meant to hurt anyone, Jones testified through tears Tuesday. She was trying to protect Anderson and asked for forgiveness from the family who lost DeMario Lee — a father, a son, a brother, a fiancé — in a violent fight outside a gas station bathroom.
At just 23 years old, Jones’ criminal record spans nine years. Her latest crime, aiding a felon, is selfish, disrespectful and warrants incarceration, La Crosse County Deputy District Attorney Michelle Keller said.
“The bottom line is Mitrel Anderson killed DeMario Lee and Brittany Jones helped him flee the jurisdiction,” she said.
Citing the seriousness of the crime and her failed attempts on supervision, Circuit Judge Elliott Levine sentenced Jones to one year in prison and two years on extended supervision. She has 81 days credit.
“You made the choice to get in the car and drive to Madison,” he said. “And you didn’t turn yourself in. You were discovered.”
Jones picked up Anderson in an alley adjacent to the Cass Street Kwik Trip minutes after police say he fatally stabbed Lee, 24, in the head, according to court records. Anderson argues he acted in self-defense and will be tried in June.
She drove the couple in her mother’s car to Madison, where state agents arrested them the next day after police tracked them through cellphone records.
Jones pleaded guilty to harboring or aiding a felon and misdemeanor bail jumping as a repeat offender. She also pleaded guilty to lying to police about her name in an unrelated case.
Lee’s family testified she deserved the maximum three-year sentence for her failure to call for help when she learned of the stabbing and her willingness to help Anderson flee.
“She has been arrested so many times. What is it going to take for her to take things seriously and to know this is not a game?” Lee’s aunt, Sabrina Beauregard, said. “You cannot keep doing things to others and think it’s OK.”
Lee’s family is still mourning the “profound loss” of the “baby of the family,” who stressed the importance of an education to his admiring cousins, said his aunt, Koliza Lee. His young children will have no memory of their father.
“It feels like a nightmare,” his stepfather, Dante Williams, testified. “You don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.”
Prosecutors agreed not to make a specific sentencing recommendation but recited Jones’ lengthy criminal history that includes convictions for assault, battery, burglary and drug delivery. She was on probation and bond when she fled with Anderson.
Her attorney Sean O’Neill stressed that she was not involved in Lee’s death. The couple went to Kwik Trip for cigarettes and Anderson returned to the car 20 minutes later bloody, swollen and in shock, he said.
“She had no idea what happened in that store,” O’Neill said.
Jones is responsible for making a poor decision in a tough situation and did not expect to “get away,” he said.
“She just wanted more time with him,” O’Neill said.
He asked the judge to impose at least three years probation, arguing prison won’t benefit her.
“I know my actions caused a lot of pain,” Jones told Lee’s family. “This was not my intention, and I’m so sorry.”
She told the judge she has used her time in jail to obtain her GED and is enrolled in business management classes.
“If you give me a chance, I won’t let nobody down, especially myself,” she testified.
Levine prohibited Jones from contacting Lee’s family and Anderson, telling her he “is no longer in the picture.”
“I know my actions caused a lot of pain. This was not my intention, and I’m so sorry.” Brittany Jones