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Former WMU basketball player sentenced for armed robbery

Posted at 2:37 PM, Jul 16, 2018

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When Tara Workman addressed the court Monday morning, she stood at the podium, a few feet away from a poster-board picture collage she made of her son Jacob Jones. She then took a few deep breaths and spoke.

“I have spent the last 19 months being Jake’s voice and his face because he deserves justice,” she said wearing a shirt with his face on it. “Now I have to go home after today and figure out how to grieve. And how to live without my son.”

Workman spoke in front a of a packed courtroom, filled with her son’s friends and family and the suspect's, Joeviair Kennedy, loved ones.

“You were to make a name for yourself,” she said while crying. “But instead you chose an inmate number and a life in prison.”

Kennedy played basketball at Western Michigan University and sometimes gave Jake tickets to games she said. Her son considered him a friend before he was shot and killed two years ago.

“When Jordan Waire asked whom you could rob, you chose Jake,” she said. “He thought you were so cool.”

According to police, Kennedy and the co-defendant Jordan Waire committed an armed robbery at Jake's off-campus apartment on December 8, 2016. They held Jones and others in the apartment at gunpoint  before Waire shot and killed Jones.

“You certainly clearly knew what Mr. Waire intended to do,” said Bobbie Muldoon whose son Spencer Travioli was in the apartment that night. “You did nothing to prevent the loss of life.”

Muldoon addressed Kennedy as well. She said Travioli has been battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and general anxiety disorder since the incident.

“Spencer still smells death in his sleep,” she said crying. “He hides in closets to avoid interaction.”

Charley Rebottaro was the other parent to speak. His son Silas immediately checked Jake’s pulse after he was shot that night. Rebottaro said Kennedy changed their lives forever and the only reason he confessed to the crime was because he had no other choice.

“It was not out of the goodness of your heart,” said Rebottaro about Kennedy’s confession. “It was because you were caught, because you dropped your phone.”

Detectives said they found Kennedy’s cell phone at the scene that night. Within days, Kennedy confessed to the crime and named Waire as the gunman. Waire was sentenced to life in prison in June for Jake’s murder.

“I just have a text you need to hear that I sent Jacob the day he left for college,” said Jake’s father Jeff while looking at his phone. He read: “I’m so proud of you and what you become. My heart hurts that you’re gone from me.”

Jeff continued reading the text saying that his son made him proud and that he exceeded all expectations he had for him. He said the text was applicable today as it was three years ago when it was first sent. And he ultimately hopes Kennedy remembers it everyday while in prison.

“I sincerely hope one day you will find it in your heart to forgive me for my mistake,” said Kennedy when given the chance to address the Jake’s loved ones. “I am truly very sorry.”

Judge Paul J. Bridenstine then sentenced Kennedy to 17.5 to 40 years in prison for armed robbery and felony firearm. Workman said she wished he had gotten more. She felt that if he hadn’t “instigated” the incident, then Jake would still be alive.

“It brings me solace knowing he’s not going to be able to do this to another family,” she said during an interview after court while holding the collage she made. “ I think that when he comes up for parole, I’ll be the first one there making sure that that doesn’t happen.”