Crime - Sacto 911

Jury convicts Foothill Farms man of wife’s murder

Jurors needed less than a day to convict Gary Alan Eberly on Thursday of first-degree murder in the November 2013 death of his wife at their Foothill Farms home.

Eberly, now 56, faces 25 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced Feb. 26 before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny. Jurors had begun their deliberations Wednesday afternoon, returning their verdict just before 11 a.m. Thursday.

Eberly had told Sacramento County sheriff’s detectives on Nov. 27, 2013, that he found wife Rhonda Jones’ body under blankets, a plastic trash bag covering her head, in a backyard shed of their Glide Court home.

Coroner’s officials said Jones, 51, likely died of asphyxia. Her body was also found with multiple blunt force trauma injuries and she had facial injuries, prosecutors said.

Early in the weeklong trial, jurors listened to detectives’ hours-long interview with Eberly that stretched from late Nov. 27, 2013, into the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning 2013.

Eberly described his rocky marriage to Jones – one sheriff’s officials said was marked by a “long history of domestic disputes” – and said Jones would leave their home sometimes for days or months before returning.

Eberly had told investigators that Jones had gone missing Nov. 19 following an argument. Eberly did not file a missing persons report or contact authorities before the 911 call that brought sheriff’s deputies to the scene.

Later, Eberly told investigators that Jones had left him for another man and took her belongings, and that he left Sacramento County for several days to seek work in Los Angeles, only finding his wife’s body upon his return.

But investigators found that Eberly never left Sacramento and evidence presented during the weeklong trial in Sacramento Superior Court revealed a different story.

A roll of blue painters’ tape found on a bedroom nightstand and in the home’s garage matched strips of tape used to seal the plastic bag that covered Jones’ head, investigators said.

Investigators’ video of the home showed smeared bloodstains on the headboard and pillows of the couple’s bed that was found to match Jones’ DNA.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith