LEESVILLE, SC (WIS) - Three years ago, five young Lexington County children were murdered in a manner that's hard to comprehend.
Back in 2014, a grand jury indicted Tim Jones, Jr. 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" in Lexington County.
"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.
Their bodies weren't found until Sept. 9, 2014, but investigators believed they had been killed on Aug. 28, 2014.
"I don't even think horrific can explain this. I don't even think that's the right word for it," said the mother of the five children. "The public has no idea."
Since August 2014, Amber Jones, the mother and the suspect's ex-wife, hasn't spoken publicly. She said her grief, combined with a restrictive gag order, limited what she could say.
Over the weekend, she finally broke her silence when she sat down for an exclusive interview.
"I feel like I've had to stay quiet for too long. I feel like I haven't been given the chance to speak about my children, about what they endured, and what they went through," she said.
First, she wanted to speak about who her children were as people. She described them as normal kids who had kind, carefree souls.
"Mera was kind of my mother duckling. She was my mini-me," Jones said. "She wanted to be a vet. Just any animal or stray that she saw she had to take in."
Elias, Jones' oldest son, was a ladies' man.
"Every girl in his classroom was his girlfriend," Jones said with a smile. "He had a very gentle soul. He was my teddy bear."
Jones described her next oldest son, Nahtahn, as very smart and very mischievous.
"He was a prankster. Everything was a joke to him," Jones said, her voice trembling. "I miss his voice a lot. I miss his freckles on his nose."
Jones' youngest son, Gabriel, had a rare genetic disorder called Angelman syndrome. Appropriately, he was named after the angel Gabriel. Jones said his syndrome caused him to smile almost non-stop.
"You couldn't wipe the smile off Gabriel's face," she said, a tear streaming down her right cheek. "He truly lived up to his name."
Finally, there's Abigail, just one year old, who Jones said had a strong attitude even at such a young age.
"She knew what she wanted. It was always her bottle and her blanket," Jones said.
The crying mother said she wants the public to remember her kids for who they were when they lived – not how they died.
"I want people to remember that my children were born for a purpose. They were brought into this world for a purpose," a tearful Jones said. "I'm proud of them every day. They gave their lives to make a difference and save other children. That's how I look at it. They sacrificed and gave their blood to save other children. I have to believe that."
Admittedly, it's been a tough three years for Jones. She's dealt with an unimaginable loss. Her ability as a mother has also been questioned on social media and beyond. Some of those commenters claimed Amber abandoned her children since her ex-husband – who's accused of the crime – was awarded primary custody of the children.
Additionally, three years later, the case still hasn't gone to trial. Jones said she's disappointed about that.
"I'm not going to be quiet," she said. "I'm angry."
You can hear more from Amber Jones tonight and even more next Wednesday night – when WIS will attempt to figure out the status of Tim Jones' case.