COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Lexington County father accused of killing his five children and dumping their bodies in trash bags in Alabama turned to Google for guidance in the days after the alleged crime.
On Tuesday, the jury heard testimony from Mike Phipps, a digital forensic analyst with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. Phipps recovered evidence from Timothy Jones Jr.’s cell phone, which was found inside the SUV he was driving when he was arrested on Sept. 6, 2014.
For more than an hour, Phipps walked the jury through every phone call, text message and internet search conducted on Jones’ cell phone from Aug. 28 until Sept. 5, when Phipps testified the phone was turned off.
During the evening of Aug. 28, the mother of the five children, Amber Kyzer, made nearly a dozen phone calls to Jones’ cell phone, most of which were documented as missed calls. One call, answered around 7:12 p.m., lasted just over three minutes.
In the days that followed, Jones largely ignored text messages and phone calls from family members and friends, corresponding mainly with the family’s babysitter, Christina Ehlke. She testified last week she spoke with Jones the week after the children hadn’t been seen, as he told her they needed a fresh start and wouldn’t be returning to South Carolina.
While the phone calls and text messages were limited, several internet searches were conducted in the days leading up to Jones’ arrest. Phipps testified some of the keywords searched were “dog search for body in landfill,” “clean pool muriatic acid,” “muriatic acid burn,” “camping South Carolina,” What does no extradition laws mean,” and “five countries with no extradition treaty.”
The last search, before the phone was shut off, appeared to be Jones’ Googling himself, typing “Tim Jones missing children,” into the search engine.
The defense pointed to several internet searches in May of 2014, where Jones searched “beautiful mind trailer,” “schizophrenia patient talking,” and “schizophrenia person seeing people.” Then, according to call logs, Jones sent a text to Amber Kyzer, the mother of his children saying, “Something is bothering me about Merah. She’s saying some creepy stuff,” followed by another text that says, “Call me late tonight. Something you REALLY need to hear.”
The defense also highlighted internet searches from June of 2014, in which Jones was searching keywords “warning signs my wife is being prostituted,” and “11 signs your Woman is Fixin’ To Whore” from a site called ChristWire.
The jury also heard testimony on Tuesday from two corrections officers of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Lt. Travis Pressley and Ben Boyd both testified as being officers who helped process Jones into the maximum security unit at Kirkland Correctional Institution in Sept. of 2014.
Lt. Pressley testified as soon as Jones was brought inside and the door slammed behind him, he became emotional and began telling officers what he did to the children.
“He explained to me what he did, how he felt sorry about what he did,” Pressley said. One of his sons was messing with the socket, he got angry—he said he grabbed his son and started strangling and choking him—said his hands were too big and said he grabbed a belt. Then he said his daughter walked in—he grabbed her and what really stuck with me is he said he started choking her until she turned purple.”
Boyd, who testified to helping, but being preoccupied with other tasks at the time of intake, offered a similar story.
“He said that his son was messing with an electrical socket and in his mind, he thought he was trying to hurt something and he killed him,” he said. “He put his hands up like this like showing how he did it, then he put his hands down and then he said his daughter walked in.”
Both testimonies vary from the confession given by Jones to authorities in Mississippi, just a few days after his arrest. In an audio recording, he is heard telling investigators he forced his son Nahtahn, 6, to do hours of physical workouts after causing electrical outlets to be blown out in the family’s living room. He told investigators he eventually sent the six-year-old to bed and when he checked on him, found his son dead.
Defense attorneys argued Jones incriminated himself after officers at the prison began asking him questions without reading him his rights. Both officers testified Jones’ admission came unsolicited and said it is standard protocol to not ask an inmate why they are being brought into prison.
Jones sat emotionless in the courtroom Tuesday, as he listened to the testimony against him. The trial will pick back up at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.