Mary Virginia Jones, 74, was greeted by friends and relatives, including the son who was barred from visiting her because of his own felony record, when she emerged from the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynnwood late Monday. A judge had ordered her release earlier in the day after she pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter.
Jones was tried four times for participating with Mose Willis in the robbery of two drug dealers, one of them shot to death, in 1981. She received the life with no parole sentence after she was convicted in the last trial of first-degree murder. Willis was sentenced to death and died in prison.
The Post-Conviction Justice Project at the University of Southern California recently took up Jones's case. Her lawyers argued that Jones, who had a history of abusive relationships, was in fear for her life.
The Los Angeles district attorney's office agreed to support her release with no probation if she pleaded to involuntary manslaughter. She said during a court appearance Monday that she was not a willing participant in the killing but believed entering the plea was in her best interest.
Jones was hailed as a woman who used her time in prison to become a leader and guide for others. Patricia Elder, who spent more than a decade behind bars before being released in 2001, was waiting for her.
"She showed us how to walk the walk with God and be faithful," Elder said. "She had a light that just shined."