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Convicted West Memphis murderer gets off death row

WEST MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A man who killed his wife and stepchildren in 1998 is no longer on death row.

Larry Jones stabbed and slit the throats of his wife and two stepchildren, Dorran, 10, and Courtney, 17.

Sherman Stokes said he remembered that morning because he actually talked with Sandra Jones while she was on a walk on McAlister Street.

He grew up with her as well as the fathers of her children.

“She’d come up round here. She left for a bunch of years. When she come back she had an old guy with her. I heard he was a truck driver,” she said.

That man ended up killing his wife and stepchildren by stabbing and slitting their throats.

Larry Jones was convicted and put on death row.

But in December, his attorneys called a hearing to request a new trial. They said they missed elements the first time, including his low IQ.

“Their new psychiatrist was going to testify he was below the level minimum number for execution,” prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington said.

Ellington said he also didn’t want to risk a new trial because the key witness has since died and some records from the first trial are missing.

“In the interest of public safety it would be better for him to always be in prison the rest of his life, to agree to life without parole,” Ellington said.

Some who remembered the tragedy understood.

"I think if they can give killers a life sentence I believe that'd be a lot better than putting them to death," said James Watkins, who's lived on McArthur Street for more than 30 years.

But Stokes grew up with the father of Dorran Davis, who never got to see his son again. He disagreed with the prosecutor's decision.

"He should die,” he said.

Ellington said he planned to contact Davis to explain the decision and apologize for the anguish.