SC man convicted of 2014 murder of his 5 children sentenced to death

Updated: Jun. 13, 2019 at 9:00 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - After being found guilty, the jury has announced the sentence for Tim Jones, Jr.

Jones has been sentenced to death after being found guilty on five counts of murder in the deaths of his children. The state sought the death penalty. The jury consisted of 12 people and two alternates.

Jones pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

A grand jury indicted Jones, Jr. in 2014 on five counts of murder in the deaths of his children – Mera, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Abigail, 1. For Mera, Elias, Gabriel, and Abigail, the indictments state the children were killed “by means of strangulation and/or other violent means or instruments.”

The bodies of the children were found in garbage bags off of a dirt road in Alabama. Jones, Jr. led authorities to the bodies after being arrested in Mississippi. Jones, who appeared to be under the influence at the time of his arrest, was questioned at the checkpoint by a Smith County, Miss. deputy about an odor of chemicals coming from his vehicle. After further investigation, the deputy found what appeared to be chemicals used to make meth and a street drug known as “Spice.” Investigators also said his Cadillac Escalade was blood-soaked and “smelled of death.”

"Jones stated that he believed the children were going to kill him, chop him up, and feed him to the dogs," the arrest warrant said.

Witnesses throughout the trial, which started on May 14, 2019, included a number of babysitters for the children, doctors who examined Jones, Jr., arresting officers from Mississippi and jailers from South Carolina, the mother of the children, Amber Kyzer, and Jones’ father and grandmother.

Closing arguments began Monday, June 3, and 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard III surmised the state’s death penalty case.

“Tim Jones may love his family but there’s someone he loves more, Tim Jones," Hubbard said.

Solicitor Hubbard points to a defense psychiatrist who testified Jones didn't know exercising Nahtahn and his subsequent death was legally wrong but reminds the jury DSS had told Jones he wasn't allowed to touch the children.

"When he picked up his phone and chose not to call 911, I know what the law is and I know I'm in trouble," Hubbard says. "The worst of the worst know killing your babies is obscene, outrageous and absolutely morally unacceptable. Jones did that in a matter of seconds.”

As for the defense, Jones’ attorneys laid out their reasoning for the not guilty by reason of insanity case. Jones’ defense team told the jury he is schizophrenic, but had not been diagnosed at the time of the alleged crime. Attorney says Jones’ mom has been institutionalized for 20 years with diagnosed schizophrenia.

As defense attorney Boyd Young closed in at one hour into his closing arguments, Jones takes off his glasses and continues to dab his eyes with his handkerchief as he had throughout the weeks-long trial.

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His defense made a motion for a mistrial, accusing Deputy Solicitor Shawn Graham of getting choked up while giving the state’s opening statements. That motion is denied.

Jones, Jr. never took the stand in his own defense.

Closing arguments continue in murder trial of SC man accused of killing his 5 children

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During the sentencing phase, which started on June 6, the prosecution called law enforcement officials and a few teachers who taught the Jones’ children. In those two days, jurors saw videos of the children recorded by Jones as well as crime scene photos.

One day later, teachers shared emotional testimony regarding their relationship with the Jones children.

On June 10, the defense began their arguments in the sentencing phase. Over two days, jurors heard from a psychiatrist, a social historian, and several members of Jones’ family -- including his ex-wife Amber Kyzer, his father, his grandmother, and his stepbrothers.

Kyzer asked the jurors not to sentence Jones to death despite his actions. She told jurors she does not believe in putting anyone to death.

Judge Eugene Griffith has sentenced Jones Jr. to death on November 30 by lethal injection or electric chair.

A South Carolina Department of Corrections official tells WIS Jones Jr. was transported to Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia after court adjourned and will be on a mandatory suicide watch for 72 hours, as is department protocol.

On Thursday evening, he’ll meet with a mental health professional before undergoing additional evaluations with a psychiatrist on Friday, the department said.

Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard said he is satisfied with the jury’s verdict and subsequent sentencing and thanked attorneys and law enforcement officers from multiple states for their help with the case.

“Since August 28, 2014, the people in this community have been carrying this case on their shoulders and minds, today we’re able to come into this courtroom and resolve this case,” Hubbard said. “Personally, this has been a huge burden for me as well, it’s been on my mind since the day I became solicitor.”

Hubbard also thanked the jurors, who he appreciated their weeks of dedication.

“They were exposed to some of the most horrific and god-awful evidence and things they heard were just incredible and they listened, were very sincere and they worked hard,” he said. “We got justice for those babies.”

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The Jones family declined to comment on the verdict upon leaving the courthouse, as did lead defense attorney Boyd Young. The case will likely be appealed.

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