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Juvenile sentencing reform results in pain for families

Ohio and other states have reacted to recent Supreme Court precedents and abolished life without parole for juveniles. Families affected by the crimes speak out.

Brian Dugger

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Just after sunrise on Aug. 10, 2015, Josianne Thomas awoke to screams from her 14-year-old son, Johnny.

"He was yelling, 'Get off of me, leave me alone.' And I thought maybe Joscelyn was just messing with him," Thomas said.

Johnny's 16-year-old sister was not messing with him. Her ex-boyfriend, Devonte Brown, had broken into the west Toledo home, attacked Johnny in his bedroom and stabbed him dozens of times, killing him.

Credit: courtesy Josianne Thomas
Joscelyn Jones, 16, and her brother Johnny Jones, 14, were killed by Devonte Brown, 16, in 2015. Brown was sentenced to life without parole.

He then appeared at the foot of Thomas' bed, with an 8-inch blade. Her 3-year-old twin daughters pressed against her.

As he began stabbing her, she cried out, "Why Devonte? I love you."

Thomas tells the story with a cold recollection, an occasional quiver of emotion in her voice.

"He just said, 'I won't hurt the babies.'"

He did not hurt the twins. But Johnny was dead when police arrived. 

Joscelyn was raped, stabbed multiple times and later died at the hospital where Brown dropped her off. 

Josianne was stabbed 17 times, played dead, and somehow survived to tell the story alongside her children's gravesite at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park.

"It's hard to come here," she says. "It's very hard."

Credit: WTOL 11