A South Carolina father accused of brutally slaying his five children then driving their bodies around for more than a week was found guilty of murder on Tuesday.
Timothy Jones Jr., 37, was found guilty on five counts of murder for killing his children, who ranged in age from 1 to 8, inside their Lexington mobile home on August 28, 2014, before burying them in Alabama a week later.
Prosecutors said Jones, an Intel computer engineer and devout Christian, strangled four of his children after forcing his 6-year-old son to do “intense physical exercises” as punishment for ruining an electrical outlet.
“I have the unique role of speaking for the dead and today I am speaking for five little babies,” 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard said in his closing argument on Monday. “You’ve seen god awful stuff by the hands of that man. That is just pure evil malice. He’s trying to make himself look mentally ill.”
The Lexington County jury reached their verdict in six hours. The divorced father, who allegedly confessed to murdering his children and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, now faces the death penalty.
Prosecutors argued that Jones “clearly knew moral and legal right from moral and legal wrong” when he killed his children—Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Elaine Marie, 1—inside their Red Bank trailer park home hours after picking them up from elementary school.
According to Jones’ confession, the 6-year-old was the first to die. The father said he found the little boy dead in his bed after performing a series of push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. The medical examiner’s office said it has not been able to conclusively determine Nahtahn’s cause of death.
Once Jones realized his middle child was dead, prosecutors said the 37-year-old went out for cigarettes to calm down with his toddler, leaving his other children terrified at home.
The defense argued that on his way home, a “creepy gremlin voice” told him to kill his other children.
“He heard a demonic voice...a creepy, gremlin voice that told him, ‘Kill the kids,’” Dr. Richard Frierson, who evaluated Jones after his arrest and determined he suffered from schizophrenia, testified last week. “He described the voices as being inside his head, being very brief.”
When he returned home, Jones strangled his oldest two children with his hands and the youngest two with a belt— kissing them goodbye as he crushed their windpipes, the father allegedly told police. Jones then tossed their bodies in the back of his Cadillac escalade, wrapped in bed sheets, prosecutors said.
The next day, Jones called a babysitter to let her know the children would be late, according to prosecutors. A few days later, he told the babysitter he planned to move away and “start over,” showing that he was in “sound mind” during the incident, Hubbard argued.
Jones’ defense attorney, Boyd Young, claimed that Jones was mentally ill and experiencing a psychotic break, which he said was evident by the high dosage of medication the father was taking.
“He’s not sick, according to the state. He’s just enjoying taking all these meds,” Young said. “He’s taking such high dosages, someone who’s not mentally ill couldn’t possibly function.”
Over the next nine days, Jones allegedly traveled through South Carolina to Alabama with the bodies in the car, frantically searching online for ways to dispose of bodies and trying to figure out where to hide his children. He eventually disposed of the bodies in separate plastic bags along a logging road in rural Alabama.
“His kids are dead in a car while he’s walking through Walmart and he looks just like any other shopper. Only in his basket, he’s got some saws, acid and things to dismember and mutilate the bodies of his babies,” Hubbard said.
On Sept. 6, 2014, police stopped Jones near his parents’ home in Raleigh at a traffic checkpoint. After smelling the children’s decomposed bodies, authorities found synthetic marijuana, or “spice,” in his car and arrested him.
Jones’ defense attorney argued at trial that the drugs he was taking exacerbated his underlying mental illness—a claim prosecutors didn’t buy.
“Voluntary consumption of drugs is not a defense,” Hubbard argued. “If you ingest drugs and do something horrible, sorry, you’re out of luck.”
Authorities said Jones initially lied about his background, first claiming he had no children, then admitting he had three children who were with their mother. After two days of questioning, Jones eventually confessed and told authorities where he’d hid the bodies, prosecutors said.
“He could’ve at least buried them, but he left them for wild animals,” Hubbard said. “They looked like garbage.”
Young argued his client’s “damaged and diseased brain” led him to believe his children were better off in heaven rather than living a “tortured existence” in foster care after the 6-year-old’s death, assuming his ex-wife didn’t want the children.
“Does it make sense? No, he’s crazy. You can’t rationalize crazy. But at the time, he thought it was the right thing to do,” Young said on Monday. “Everyone says Tim loves his kids. And tragically, horrifically, that love killed them.”
“Killing someone out of hatred is murder. Killing children out of love is insanity,” Young added.