Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Elwood Hubert Jones was scheduled to be executed at 10 am local time, on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. His execution date has been vacated pending retrial. Seventy-one-year-old Elwood was convicted of murdering 67-year-old Rhoda Nathan in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Blue Ash, Ohio. Elwood spent 26 years on Ohio’s death row before being released on bond, pending a new trial.
At the time of the murder, Elwood Jones was employed by Embassy Suites Hotel in Blue Ash, Ohio.
On September 2, 1994, Elaine Schub, Joe Kaplan, and Rhoda Nathan, all checked into a room at the Embassy Suites Hotel. They had come to town to celebrate a bar mitzvah. Elaine and Joe got up early the following day to go for a complimentary breakfast in a banquet room, however, Rhoda stayed in the hotel room for some more sleep. Joe took the only room key for the group and made sure the door was locked before leaving the room around 7:28 am.
Forty minutes later Joe and Elaine returned to the room. Rhoda’s nude body was lying on the floor. Further investigation revealed that she had suffered severe head trauma. Elaine, who had left her purse in the room during breakfast, discovered that money was missing from her wallet. Elaine also notices that Rhoda was missing a pendent necklace that she always wore. It was a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry made by Rhoda’s late husband.
Rhoda was pronounced dead later that day and police quickly began investigating, narrowing down their suspects to three hotel workers who had prior criminal histories. Two of the suspects were cleared through further investigation. Elwood “Butch” Jones, was the third suspect identified by the police. Further investigation revealed that Jones had injured his hand on the day of Rhoda’s murder, later filing for worker’s compensation benefits. After subpoenaing and receiving medical records, the police spoke to a physician who treated Jones. The physician confirmed that Jones’ hand injury appeared to be a “fist-to-mouth,” type injury.
Police went to the home of Earlene Metcalfe, Jones’ girlfriend, who was also listed as a witness to the hand injury. Both agreed to be questioned by the police. Once at the station, Jones was read his Miranda rights and signed a waiver form. Jones confirmed that he and Earlene arrived at work on September 3, around 5 am. Upon arriving, Jones signed out a hotel master key and began helping his girlfriend. Around 6 am, Jones went to the second floor of the hotel to clean banquet rooms. Jones claimed that around that time he slipped on some steps outside, cutting his left hand, while taking out some trash.
Jones forcefully claimed that he spent from 6:30 am to 8 am that day working the complimentary breakfast area. Jones also denied entering room 237 that day. When police asked if he was involved in the murder, Jones asked to speak to an attorney. Meanwhile, Earlene agreed to have police search her residence. Police also obtained a warrant to search the vehicle owned by Jones. Inside a toolbox in Jones’ car, police found the unique pendant that belonged to Rhoda and a master key to the hotel. The evidence was sent for testing and after the results came back, police arrested Jones.
Jones was charged and convicted of the murder of Rhoda Nathan, and sentenced to death. Jones had previously received at least one other execution date of April 21, 2021. That execution was delayed to December 6, 2023, due to ongoing problems obtaining execution drugs in the state of Ohio. Read more about the challenges Ohio has been facing regarding executions in the state here.
Elwood Jones has always maintained his innocence of the crime that sent him to death row. In 2022, Elwood was granted a new trial. At a hearing to determine if Elwood should be granted a new trial, his attorney presented 4,000 pages of evidence that was withheld by prosecutors during his initial trial. Additionally, in the years since the crime, another person has confessed to carrying out the murder, however, that person’s confession is considered unreliable due to mental illness. A guest staying at the hotel the morning of Rhonda’s murder has also come forward and testified that they saw a man with a light complexion sprinting from the scene of the crime that morning. Elwood has a dark complexion.
After being granted a new trial, Elwood has been released from prison on an unsecured bond, with an electronic monitoring device. He must report bi-weekly to the Hamilton Country Probation Department for random drug screens. Hamilton County prosecutors have opposed his release. His trial is currently scheduled to occur in 2024.
Pray for peace and healing for the family of Rhoda Nathan. Pray for strength for the family of Elwood Jones. Pray that if Elwood is innocent, lacks, the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented before his execution. Pray that Elwood may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
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