COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - "I really miss them," the tearful mother said, gazing down with tear-filled eyes at a glossy photo. "They were good kids, and I truly wonder what they
would be like now."
That single photo brings back endless memories for the mother, Amber Jones. And no day goes by where she doesn't remember their faces, their smiles, their voices.
"No. No there isn't," she said in a tearful whisper. "I talk to them every night at night when I'm laying in bed. Everybody's asleep. I think that's when it's the hardest because it's all quiet. You can't help but think. Your mind starts wandering, and you start thinking about what you did wrong and what you could have done differently."
Investigators say all five of Amber's children were either strangled or beaten to death by their father and Amber's ex-husband, Timothy Jones, Jr., about three years ago. The news became public almost two weeks after the children were murdered after Jones was arrested in Mississippi after their small bodies were found in Alabama.
"I don't even think horrific can explain this. I don't even think that's the right word for it. The public has no idea what he did to my children. They have no idea. I can tell you I know just a little bit, and the little bit I do know haunts me," Amber said deliberately. "I've had to be put on anxiety meds. I go to trauma therapy, because now what I know is what I'm stuck with clearly in my head."
But three years later, in the eyes of the law, the accused murderer, her ex-husband, is still innocent. His death penalty trial still hasn't happened.
"In a way, I can't even lay my babies to rest, per se, until this is brought to justice and until they get justice for what has been done to them. Horrific doesn't explain what he did to them."
It's familiar frustration to one of Amber's attorneys, Dick Harpootlian.
"Well, there's no question that she's frustrated by that," he said. "She needs closure. The community needs closure, and we need to figure out why this
happened and make sure it never happens again."
Along with attorney Hyman Rubin, Harpootlian is representing Amber in a civil case against DSS.
"She's suffering from PTSD, or whatever you want to call it, that makes it difficult for her to handle the frustration of losing her children, and then, this process is never-ending," Harpootlian said.
However, Harpootlian said the process of bringing the criminal case to trial is in good hands. Rick Hubbard took over as solicitor last year after the
previous solicitor, longtime prosecutor Donnie Myers, didn't seek re-election after a DUI arrest.
"I've prosecuted, when I was solicitor, 10 death penalty cases. I've defended two," Harpootlian said. "The glacial pace of the death penalty prosecution is
normal. It's unfortunate, but we have to check all the boxes, unless you want to do it two or three times, which, unfortunately, has happened a number of times in this state. So, Rick Hubbard wants to do it right, and he wants to do it once. That's going to take a little time to do."
Solicitor Hubbard said he understands Amber's frustration. He said a big hurdle was cleared earlier this year when a judge was assigned to the case. He also said he'll personally help prosecute the case along with several others from his team.
According to Hubbard, after a number of hurdles – some out of his control – the trial date is set for February 2018.
Meanwhile, one of Amber's attorneys has also filed a suit on behalf of her children's estate against about half a dozen businesses in Lexington County. The new suit, filed on the third anniversary of the children's deaths, claims the businesses sold Tim Jones synthetic marijuana, also known as K-2 or Spice. The suit claims Jones was under the influence of Spice when he murdered the five children. Attorneys for the shops haven't yet filed responses, according to the county's case index.
Amber hopes that date will hold for her sake and her children's.
"They touched everybody in a different way. And I have to believe their sole reason for being born and dying in this manner was to save other children's lives," she said while staring down at the photo. It's a photo of five small, happy faces – three of them aglow with big, beautiful smiles.