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Nearly 5-year prison term for Moorhead man who owned gun that a child fired, killing 6-year-old

22 March 2022

A Moorhead, Minn., man was sentenced Tuesday to nearly five years in prison for illegal possession of a gun that a child found in his home and accidentally fatally shot the man’s 6-year-old cousin.

Phillip N. Jones Jr., 34, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in St. Paul in connection with the death of Marcellus Dixon, who was killed March 21, 2021, at an apartment in the 400 block of Sunrise Circle.

Judge Paul Magnuson agreed with prosecutors and sentenced Jones to four years and nine months in prison with three years of supervised release. The defense argued for a sentence of 2 ½ years.

As part of a plea deal in September, Jones admitted to being a felon in possession of a firearm and under sentencing guidelines could have been sentenced from 2 ½ years in prison to slightly more than three. However, federal judges have wide authority to deviate from the guidelines.

Authorities said Jones had left four children unsupervised in his apartment when one of them found a loaded handgun inside a box of snack chips atop a kitchen cabinet. The slightly older boy then fired a shot that ricocheted off the stove and hit the 6-year-old in the face.

Jones’ criminal record includes felony convictions in Hennepin and Anoka counties dating back more than 14 years. Among them are attempted drive-by shooting, fleeing police and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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