Man sentenced to life without parole for the murder of missing Cedartown woman

Thursday, March 7, 2024–10:19 a.m.

-Jeremy Stewart, Polk Standard Journal-

This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at

There was little closure for the family and friends of a Cedartown mother missing for more than two years in the form of the sentencing of Joseph Leroy Jones. But it was welcomed all the same.

Jones, 33, was sentenced to life without parole by Polk County Superior Court Judge Andrew Roper on Wednesday after he was convicted last month in the murder of his wife, Monisha Leath, whose body has yet to be found.

“I can’t help to think she had more to offer and I know her life was taken too soon,” Roper told Jones before handing down his sentence. “I don’t think we will ever know the extent of what happened. But I know that Moe’s life had value. Her family has a void in their life that they will never fill. Her children will never know the comfort of their mother’s hug.”

Leath’s mother, Kawanna Leath, was one of two family members to speak as part of Wednesday’s hearing. Both requested the judge sentence Jones to life without parole. They also asked Jones to explain his actions and what he did with Monisha Leath’s body.

Jones has been silent about his actions and showed no emotion during their statements.

Tallapoosa Circuit District Attorney Jack Browning said while Jones’ sentencing provides closure as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, it will never be closure for Leath’s family.

“Even when it is a case where the location of the victim is known, you can never replace a loved one. But the sense of despair and uncertainty is just exponentially greater for this family because they don’t know where she is,” Browning said following the sentencing.

“They know in their hearts that their daughter, their friend, is no longer with us. And at the same time it’s just human nature to be able to put closure on the end of a life, and they’re never going to be able to do that.”

Jones was on probation in relation to being convicted of armed robbery in Dekalb County when Leath went missing following the events of Feb. 24, 2022, when she did not pick up her children from school.

Witnesses during last month’s trial testified that Jones told them he got into a fight with Leath at their College Drive apartment after the mother of three discovered Jones had gotten another woman pregnant. Leath allegedly came at him with a knife. He knocked the knife away and choked Leath until she was dead.

Leath was reported missing shortly after. Jones was arrested a day later in Thomson on unrelated charges but was later charged with Leath’s murder by the GBI.

The investigation found that Jones had left Cedartown after the alleged fight and first went toward Rome before coming back and passing through Cedartown. He then went to Riverdale and then Fayetteville to family and friends before attempting to travel to South Carolina where he was arrested on the way there.

A jury found Jones guilty of felony murder, malice murder and aggravated assault in connection with Leath’s death on Feb. 2. The count of felony murder was vacated in operation of state law since the sentence for felony and malice murder is the same.

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