Holyoke man sentenced to more than 15 years in state prison for rape and murder plot

  • Jason Coons, 38, of Holyoke, was sentenced Friday in Hampshire Superior Court to 15 to 17 years in state prison. Coons pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the first degree, intimidating a witness and two counts of aggravated rape. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS

Friday, November 10, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A Holyoke man was sentenced Friday to more than 15 years in state prison for raping a South Hadley woman and then attempting to have her murdered.

Jason Coons, 38, pleaded guilty in Hampshire Superior Court to charges of conspiracy in the first degree, intimidating a witness and two counts of aggravated rape. A charge of kidnapping was dropped as part of the plea.

“It’s difficult to underestimate the seriousness of the facts in this case,” Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl said. “Mr. Coons just admitted to raping someone who is essentially a stranger to him.”

During the early morning hours of Nov. 17, 2014, Coons was on his normal newspaper-delivery route when he stopped in at the woman’s workplace in Northampton. The two talked, and Coons asked her if she wanted to make a little extra money by helping him on his paper route and drive to South Hadley, Suhl said.

Coons was associated at the time of the alleged assault with Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, or PCF, the independent company through which the Gazette delivers newspapers to subscribers. He worked for PCF as an independent contractor or subcontractor. He had also worked in the distribution center of the Gazette until December 2014.

Once in the car, Coons took the woman’s phone, Suhl explained in court Friday.

“You can trust me,” Suhl said Coons told the woman.

Coons drove the woman to a dark, secluded area in South Hadley and forced his hands down her pants as she protested, the prosecutor continued. The woman tried to crawl out the driver’s side door as Coons got out of the car and walked to the passenger side. Suhl said he grabbed hold of the woman, dragged her back through the door and raped her.

Coons told the woman he would not take her home if she told police and forced her to call his cellphone four times, leaving voicemails with her name saying the sex was consensual, the prosecutor said.

The woman told some of her co-workers what happened shortly after the incident, but did not go to police until June 2015 because she was scared, Suhl said. Coons was on GPS monitoring at the time as part of probation for a prior sexual offense conviction in Hampden Superior Court. That information, coupled with phone records, were used to corroborate the woman’s story, Suhl explained.

“Not only is the act itself so bold ... more bold was the fact that he was wearing a GPS bracelet from his last conviction,” Suhl said in arguing for the state prison sentence. “He knew that that information was possible to be found. He was wearing an ankle bracelet at the time and still choose to engage in this horrific behavior.”

Murder for hire

While he was being held on bail at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Corrections, Coons asked a fellow inmate for assistance in hiring someone to kill the woman in his pending rape case, Suhl said. The fellow inmate, identified in court using only initials, reported the incident.

The inmate then told Coons he knew a man named “Crazy” who could do the job and the two came to an agreement that Coons’ wife Cynthia Coons would pay $500 upfront and Jason Coons would pay the remaining $4,500 once the case was dismissed, the prosecutor said.

Cynthia Coons, 50, pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court in June to a charge of conspiracy in the first degree. She has been held on bail since April 2016.

The husband and wife had discussed the arrangements in person during visitations as well as over the phone, referring to the potential killer as the “new lawyer,” Suhl said.

Investigators began listening to phone calls between the two and heard numerous conversations in which the pair discussed the “new lawyer,” payment information as well as plans to gather information on the woman to give to the “new lawyer,” Suhl explained.

An undercover Massachusetts State Police trooper playing the role of “Crazy” initiated contact with Cynthia Coons, who told the undercover trooper that she needed some time to get the money together, the prosecutor said. Coons’ roommate Elinor Roberge, 47, of Holyoke, became involved when she offered to help find another hit man to kill the woman, Suhl said.

Roberege has also been charged with conspiracy and denied it. She was released on conditions she stay away from and not have contact with the alleged victim, as well as Jason and Cynthia Coons. She must also report to probation in person weekly.

Using another inmate’s pin number to use the telephone, Jason Coons spoke with his wife and Roberege over the phone about the potential hit man, referring to a “Jacqueline Smith,” Suhl said.

At that point, police stopped the plot. Without the inmate’s help to investigators, Suhl said there was no doubt in her mind that the women would be dead today.

Suhl asked Judge Richard Carey for a sentence of 15 to 17 years in state prison. Coons’ attorney, Henry Fasoldt, asked the judge for a sentence of 10 to 12 years.

“Your honor heard a lot of strong emotional appeals why Mr. Coons so deserves to go away for a large chunk of his life,” Fasoldt said. “Mr. Coons is a person … He is actually a person who is not a one-dimensional monster.”

Fasoldt added that his interactions with Coons have been respectful and direct and he has never been made uncomfortable. The attorney did note that he was neither a woman nor diminutive.

“He knows these offenses are incredibly, incredibly serious,” Fasoldt said.

After hearing from both attorneys, Judge Carey sentenced Coons to not less than 15 years and not more than 17 years in state prison to be served concurrently with not more than 14 years and not less than 16 years on the conspiracy charge.

Coons will receive 470 days credit for confinement on the rape charges and 196 days credit for confinement on the conspiracy charge.

Criminal history

Court records show Coons has a lengthy criminal history, including multiple convictions for crimes of violence and weapons possession, including assault with intent to rape, indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older, indecent assault and battery on a child, and unarmed robbery on a person over 60.

He is a registered Level 2 sex offender and has had three restraining orders issued against him in the past. Coons also has been charged with and admitted to failing to properly register as a sex offender in the past and violating court probation orders on numerous occasions, according to court documents.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.