St. Paul man charged with 2nd-degree murder after man dies from assault injuries

A St. Paul man has been formally charged in the death of 51-year-old Carlos Rocha last month.

A criminal complaint stated 39-year-old Phillip Jones has been charged with second-degree murder without intent while committing a felony.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Rocha reported he had been assaulted in his apartment building, located in the area of Snelling and Blair avenues, just after 4 p.m. on December 20. At the time, officers and medics responded and spoke with Rocha, but he was not hospitalized.

According to the complaint, responding officers noted Rocha had dried blood on his face, and the left side of his face was "noticeably swollen."

The document states Rocha told police he had left his apartment at about 3 p.m. to collect a food order, and that a man, who he thought was a guest of someone living in a different apartment, had multiple belongings in the hallway, and were blocking Rocha’s path.

Rocha then told police he asked the man to move his items, and the man became upset. Rocha stated he asked the man what his problem was, and the man allegedly punched him in the face before the man left through a back door, and left the area on a bike. In addition, Rocha said the resident living in the unit told him to "keep his mouth shut" about the incident.

According to Rocha’s statement to police, the suspect was identified as a 30-year-old Black man, was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, had a medium build and was wearing all black clothing with a brown coat.

Members of the St. Paul Fire Department checked on Rocha on Dec. 27 and found him dead in his apartment after his mother stated she hadn’t spoken to him in a few days, and that the last time they spoke, he told her he was bleeding.

When officers arrived, medical staff told police the window in the apartment was open, and they had used a ladder truck to get inside. In addition, they said the front door was locked from the inside.

According to the complaint, officers found dried blood on Rocha’s mattress, and there were flies in the room.

An autopsy was done the following day, and it was determined Rocha died due to injuries he received during the assault.

After speaking with Rocha’s mother and the property manager, investigators say they spoke to a witness who said she heard an altercation in the hallway while inside her apartment. The complaint states the witness had seen the suspect before and added she believed his nickname was "Hunter" or "Gunner", and in addition to being medium height and stocky, had a goatee and was possibly bald but usually wore a hat. The witness stated the suspect also had a large backpack.

Surveillance video led police to speak with a resident about the suspect, and they were told the suspect was known as "Gunner." In addition, the resident told police the suspect came to his apartment on Dec. 20 but didn’t mention the encounter with Rocha.

The surveillance video was then sent to other law enforcement agencies, and the suspect was identified as Jones, who also had a warrant issued for his arrest due to an arson charge. The complaint states Jones’ history showed he had been arrested for weapons possession in Michigan, as well as burglary, assault, arson and disorderly conduct in Minnesota.

Police arrested Jones Thursday. Jones initially denied knowing Rocha, however, the complaint states Jones voiced multiple instances during which he had interacted with Rocha.

Online court records show Jones has a court hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon. Check back for updates.