Warning: Some readers may find the content disturbing. Photos included in this article are graphic.
Jayme Garden and Jamie Wilcox met in 2013 while shopping for buns in an Oregon bread store and within two years the young men were married. In August 2017, the couple took a chance and moved south to the Ukiah Valley after being gifted a quarter of a plot of land by a family member of Wilcox’s. On an adjacent plot of land lived Wilcox’s step-father, Thomas Jones. In a cruel twist of fate, this gift would be a curse leading up to September 23, 2020, when the same step-father, Thomas Jones, is accused of having gunned down his step-son and his step-son’s husband in cold blood.
Jayme Garden is still in Ukiah seeking medical treatment and awaiting being called as a witness in the criminal trial against Thomas Jones accused of first-degree murder. He lives in a Ukiah Motel, unable to work because of his injuries, still in shock over the loss of his husband, and he desperately is seeking justice.
Garden told us he and Wilcox decided to move to Mendocino County after Wilcox was given a plot of land outside Ukiah proper in May 2017. Compelled by the dream of homeownership, the couple moved south in 2017.
Garden said his husband Jamie quickly found a job at the Ukiah Brewing Company. Garden said he was initially “the homemaker” but eventually ended up finding work at Ukiah’s Chipotle.
Immediately it seemed the dreams of homeownership and fixing up the property would not be as smooth as expected. Garden explained that the gifted land was actually one-quarter of a larger plot and immediately adjacent to his and his husband’s home was Thomas Jones, Wilcox’s stepfather, and his aunt. Whenever Garden and Wilcox would attempt to complete yard maintenance or fix up the property, Jones and the aunt would become combative.
Garden sensed the relationship between Wilcox and his step-father Thomas Jones was strained and he said he would avoid Jones. Garden said that when he did interact with Jones he “looked down on me.” Sometimes Garden could hear Jones mumble under his breath words like “too young” or “little faggot.”
Garden remembers Jones “barging into our home ranting about the government and blaming the fags and the jews.” Wilcox was a peacemaker, Garden said, and would always work to de-escalate situations involving Jones and his aunt.
Wilcox and Garden lived this reality for a little over three years, working in the Ukiah Valley, making friends, and putting the tension with the Jones out of their minds.
In June 2020, the couple’s ability to keep Thomas Jones at arm’s length irrevocably changed. Another son of Jones moved onto the property, residing in the A-frame that Jones once occupied, and Jones moved into a trailer mere feet from Garden and Wilcox’s home. Garden said one day, “Tom just barged in and said he would be using our kitchen and bathroom whenever he liked.”
At that point, Garden said, “Jones began to threaten Jamie, my life, and my animals’ lives rather quickly.” Wilcox and Garden’s power bill began to double, even triple. After several occasions of finding the oven left on while turned to broil and doors left ajar, it seemed as if Jones was purposefully wasting power to increase the power bill.
Garden said Jones would wake them up at 5:00 in the morning ranting about conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and immigrants, and “not respect us, our jobs, or our animals.”
These disruptions led Wilcox and Garden to the realization they needed to “change something really soon.” Garden explained that he and Wilcox decided to look into selling the land that had been gifted to them, buying a home, and creating a more stable environment for themselves.
Wilcox informed the Jones’ of the plan and in Garden’s estimation “this is what flipped Tom’s switch.”
On the morning of September 23, 2020, Garden said he and Wilcox got ready for work.
At 7:01 that morning, Jones posted on his Facebook page his version of a Bible verse that foretold of the tragedy to come: “Luke 11:21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace his good are in peace.”
Ready to head out the day, the couple got into their car, buckled up, and Wilcox noticed his step-dad Jones approached the vehicle from behind and rolled down the window to greet him.
Garden’s memory of the following moments is fragmented, but he said Jones “waited until we were buckled in and approached from the rear passenger side concealing his weapon.”
Garden said he still remembers the smell of the gunpowder as Jones “unloaded his revolver.” Garden has a vivid memory of looking up after the volley of gunfire and seeing “a grin on [Jones’s] face and as he walked away he had a bounce to his step.”
Shot in the upper arm and his right hand, Garden realized his husband was dead and threw the vehicle into reverse, peeling out into an adjacent neighbor’s driveway.
Garden felt compelled to document this tragic moment in the form of photographs taken with his smartphone. In a selfie Garden took moments after being shot, he is seen with blood covering the left side of his head, down his neck and chest. His face is twisted in a combination of confusion, pain, and fear.
From that point, Mendocino County Sheriffs and medical personnel came onto the scene. Garden remembers being loaded into an ambulance, helicoptered to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, then waking up finding his arm wrapped with bandages from the tips of his fingers to his shoulder.
Garden said he was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, September 27 and his dad picked him and took him to Oregon for two weeks. While in Oregon, Garden described himself as still in shock from the incident that left his husband dead and his health forever altered.
Garden thinks Jones’s anger and resentment toward him and his husband is rooted in homophobia and a “loathing for what the world has turned into.” He noted that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones became more agitated ranting about COVID-19 conspiracies.
Fundamentally, Garden feels Jones “never really liked Jamie and their relationship was always strained.” Compelled by this tension, Garden said, “in Tom’s senile view of the world, I do kind of feel the shooting of us was a way for Tom to cleanse his family of the ‘evil within’.”
Garden is still in Ukiah, waiting to be called for Thomas Jones’s criminal trial. Jones could face life in prison without parole or potentially the death penalty due to these charges being strike three under California’s Three Strikes sentencing laws. Jones’s original two strikes stem from a series of armed robberies in Lake and Sonoma Counties he pled guilty to in 1979.
It should be noted that even if Thomas Jones is sentenced to death, on March 13, 2019 California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty in the state.
Garden is attempting to heal, attending physical therapy to regain use of his arm and hand. He is desperate to get his life back and move forward. Living in a motel, Garden is hoping to find a place that will take his dogs but has found the Ukiah Valley rental market difficult.
To support Garden’s healing while he cannot work due to his injury, this GoFundMe campaign has been created to help him with living expenses until he can support himself once again.
Today, three months after the attack, Garden’s life is one of trauma and anguish. He told us, “every time I close my eyes, I hear the gunshots and my husband’s scream…I see what happened all over again.”