Mother claims Social Services didn’t do enough ahead of 5 children being killed
LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The former wife of the man accused of brutally killing his five children then dumping their bodies in a ditch in rural Alabama has filed a lawsuit against the state and Lexington County Department of Social Services for failing to protect the children from their murders.
Amber Jones has filed the suit in Lexington County on Friday, according to documents, and is seeking an undetermined amount of damages for the "wrongful deaths and conscious pain and suffering of her children."
"Each child suffer[ed] a horrific, but entirely preventable death," the lawsuit said.
In the suit, Jones alleges the state and the county DSS branch failed to protect the five children -- Abigail Elizabeth Jones, 1; Gabriel Jones, 2; Nahtahn Jones, 6; Elias Jones, 7; and Merah Gracie Jones, 8 -- before they were found dead in Alabama back in September 2014.
The children's father, Timothy Jones, Jr., 34, was arrested and charged in the case after being stopped at a safety checkpoint in Mississippi. The suit repeatedly refers to Jones, Jr. as a "well-documented child abuser."
Jones, Jr. was indicted on five counts of murder.
Jones, represented by attorneys Dick Harpootlian and Hyman Rubin, goes into detail about how the state allegedly failed to protect the children despite numerous calls and investigations by DSS.
"At all times relevant to this action, SC DSS had actual knowledge of the risk posed to the children by Mr. Jones and the inadequacy of Lexington County DSS's response to those risks based on reports and investigations provided to SC DSS by Lexington County DSS," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit details some of the history involving Jones, the children, DSS and other parties. In 2011, the lawsuit says DSS made visits a couple different times because the children were living in dirty conditions, were being neglected, and had a "substantial risk of physical injury." The lawsuit goes on to note that DSS didn't do much more than file "safety plans."
Also recorded in the suit was a notation where caseworkers returned in 2012 and learned that Tim threatened to snap his wife's neck.
In 2013 and 2014, a teacher reported signs of abuse multiple times, according to the lawsuit. It also states another school official reported to DSS that Tim Jones choked one of the children and threw the child against a wall in May 2014. In the summer of 2014, DSS observed more signs of abuse at the home. A teacher reported signs of abuse as well as a babysitter during that time, according to the suit.
In total, Amber Jones says DSS showed negligence in 11 different areas.
The suit also goes into further detail about what happened on the day the Jones children went missing and were eventually found dead in Alabama.
Neighbors told deputies that Jones said he was moving the children from his home near Lexington to another state. The last time anyone saw the children was Aug. 28.
Jones reported the children and Jones, Jr. missing Sept. 3, and Lexington County deputies entered the family into the National Crime Information Center database.
When Mississippi authorities picked up Jones on Sept. 6, they said he appeared to be under the influence of drugs at the time of his arrest with his Cadillac Escalade being 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," according to the Lexington County arrest warrant.
Jones, Jr. also had repeated domestic issues with his ex-wife, who told deputies he threatened to snap her neck, spit in her face and shoot the neighbors.
Jones eventually filed for divorce against Jones, Jr.
The state is seeking the death penalty against Jones, Jr.
The South Carolina Department of Social Services issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon, saying they were not in a position to comment since the suit was just recently filed.
Copyright 2016 WIS. All rights reserved.