By Mark Curnutte, The Cincinnati Enquirer
VERONA, Ky. -- Earl Jones had just turned off his new TV shortly after 2 a.m. Monday when he heard a bang in the basement.
The 92-year-old Boone County farmer walked eight paces to get his loaded .22-caliber rifle from behind the bedroom door. He unwrapped a beige cloth and returned to the living room, sitting in a chair with clear view -- and shot -- of the basement door, waiting with the gun across his lap.
Some 15 minutes later, when he heard footsteps moving closer up the stairs, he raised the rifle to his eye. The intruder kicked open the door. Jones fixed his aim on the center of the man's chest and fired a single shot.
The Boone County sheriff later announced the death of the intruder, Lloyd "Adam" Maxwell, 24, of Richmond, Ky.
"These people aren't worth any more to me than a groundhog," Jones told The Enquirer. "They have our country in havoc. We got so many damned crooked people walking around today."
Two men with Maxwell, Ryan Dalton, 22, and Donnie Inabnit, 20, both of Dry Ridge, Ky., were charged with second degree burglary and tampering with evidence. Police say they removed Maxwell's body from Jones' home.
The Boone County sheriff had no information Monday night on whether Jones would be charged, but he appeared clearly to act within Kentucky's legal definition of justifiable force in defense of his home and property. An investigation is ongoing. Police haven't said if the intruders were armed.
Kentucky, like at least two dozen states, has a "castle doctrine" enshrined in its laws. That's the right to defend one's home with deadly force.
Kentucky law allows the use of physical force if someone believes it's needed to prevent criminal trespass, robbery or burglary in his or her house.
Some states, including Kentucky, have expanded the castle doctrine in recent years, giving people the right to use deadly force outside of their homes. Called "no retreat" or "stand your ground" laws, they do not require an individual to retreat before using force and allow the individual to match force for force, including deadly force, in public places.
Florida's stand-your-ground law is at the core of the Feb. 26 shooting death of black teen Trayvon Martin by crime-watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
The number of killings by private citizens nationally of a felon during the commission of a felony has increased in recent years, from 196 in 2005 to 278 in 2010, according to FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics.
In Earl Jones' mind, his actions are justified. He said he was completely within his rights to defend his life and ranch home on the 500-acre farm he has worked since 1955.
"I was hoping another one would come up -- I aimed right for his heart," said Jones, who served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1941 through '46. "I didn't go to war for nothing. I have the right to carry a gun. That's what I told the police this morning."
Not long after the shooting, Kenton County police responded to a call of a man who had been shot. There they found Maxwell's body and two uninjured men in a 2001 Chevrolet Impala who later, during questioning, would admit to being at Jones' home.
The break-in was the third Jones has experienced on his farm this year. In April, thieves stole 90 head of cattle from a field behind his house. In August, burglars took his television, a few thousand dollars cash and a personal check they unsuccessfully tried to cash, and they ripped his phone out of the wall.
"I can't leave the damn house to do my work outside," said Jones, removing his World War II veteran cap with his right hand and running his left through his thin white hair.
Jones has lived alone since his wife, Virginia Pearl, died in 2006. The couple had no children. Jones grew up hunting squirrels in Boone County and volunteered for the forerunner to the Air Force in 1941. He went through weapons training in the military.
He is not happy that police took the rifle used in the shooting.
"How am I going to protect myself if they come back looking for revenge?" he said.
Maxwell fell back seven steps onto a landing. Jones didn't pursue the intruders into the basement.
He called a neighbor and calmly said, "I need help. I just shot a man,' " Maxwell said.
At the same time, the two unhurt intruders, Dalton and Inabnit, fled Jones' property with Maxwell's body. Not long afterward, having driven across the county line, they called Kenton County police with a bogus story of how Maxwell had been shot.
When Boone County sheriff's deputies arrived at Jones' house, they found the basement door ajar and no one except Jones in the home.
Jones didn't like how deputies treated him.
"They stood down there with their guns on me, yelling, 'Get your hands up! Get your hands up!' " he said. "I told them, 'I'm not putting my damn hands up.' "
Finally, he did. Police approached up the long gravel driveway, flanked by a field of tobacco that Jones rents to another farmer, and questioned him.
"Was I scared? Was I mad? Hell, no," Jones said. "It was simple. That man was going to take my life. He was hunting me. I was protecting myself."