South Carolina father sentenced to death for the brutal murders of his five children, aged 1 to 8

37-year-old Timothy Jones Jr. did not show any emotion as the jury delivered the unanimous verdict after less than two hours of deliberating on Thursday, June 13

                            South Carolina father sentenced to death for the brutal murders of his five children, aged 1 to 8

A father in South Carolina who killed his five children with his bare hands and then drove around with their corpses in his truck for nine days has now been sentenced to death.

37-year-old Timothy Jones Jr. did not show any emotion as the jury delivered the unanimous verdict after less than two hours of deliberating on Thursday, June 13. The jurors could have also sentenced Jones Jr. to life without parole but the heinous nature of the crime pushed them to go for the death penalty.

The BBC reported that the same jury in Lexington County convicted Jones Jr. of five counts of murder just last week in the deaths of his children, who were aged between 1 and 8-years-old, in their Lexington home in August 2014. The prosecutors on the case had been pushing for the death penalty but several members of the Jones family, including the mother of the five children, had urged the jury to spare his life earlier this week. 

Timothy Jones Jr. wipes his eyes as his ex-wife Amber Kyzer, mother of five children, stunned a South Carolina courtroom Tuesday by asking the jury to spare her ex-husband's life. (Source: Tracy Glantz/The State via AP, Pool)

Solicitor Rick Hubbard said in his closing argument earlier Thursday that if any jurors had doubts whether Jones Jr. deserved the death penalty, they should just consider the five garbage bags where he dumped their bodies in rural Alabama. But a lawyer for Jones Jr. told jurors they alone could show mercy — if not for a father who killed five kids with his own hands, then for a family that has seen so much death and still wants to love Jones Jr., even through prison bars.

Jones Jr's father hung his head in his hands as the verdict was read and other family members appeared to cry. Afterward, Jones Jr's family left without speaking to reporters. The defense indicated they would appeal. Hubbard said after the trial, "No mercy was shown to the kids, but justice was done in this case."

Jones Jr. is just the second person to be sent to South Carolina's death row in five years. The state has not executed anyone since 2011 and lacks the drugs to carry out lethal injection. Hubbard said in his closing argument that Jones, 37, has been selfish all his life, trying to break up his father's second marriage because he wasn't getting enough attention and controlling his wife's every decision.

11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard delivers closing arguments, showing pictures of the Jones children during the sentencing phase of the trial (Source: Tracy Glantz/The State via AP, Pool)

When his wife left him, Hubbard said, Jones Jr. couldn't stand that his control was over. With custody of his children, the computer engineer with an $80,000-a-year job mistreated any of them who showed any intention of wanting to be with their mother instead of him, Hubbard said.

Jones Jr. first killed 6-year-old son Nahtahn in a "white hot rage" after the boy confessed on the phone to his mother — but not to his father — to breaking an electrical outlet, Hubbard said. Over the next several hours, Jones Jr. went and got cigarettes, taking his oldest daughter so she wouldn't call for help, and leaving the three other kids with their brother's body. Then he made a decision, just like the one the jury was called upon to make, the prosecutor said. "He sentenced his kids to death," Hubbard said.

In a confession, Jones Jr. said he strangled 7-year-old Elias with his hands and chased down 8-year-old Merah before choking her. He then used a belt to choke 2-year-old Gabriel and 1-year-old Abigail because he said his hands were too big. That deserved death and not life, Hubbard said. A life sentence "is just send Timmy to his room, make him think about what he has done" Hubbard said.

Timothy Jones, Sr. weeps as his son is sentenced to death for the killing of his 5 young children in 2014, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Lexington, S.C. (Source: Tracy Glantz/The State via AP, Pool)

Jones Jr. loaded the children's bodies into his SUV and drove around the Southeast U.S. for nine days before dumping them in five black garbage bags on a dirt road near Camden, Alabama. He was arrested hours later after an officer at a traffic checkpoint in Smith County, Mississippi, said he smelled a horrible odor of decomposition. Hubbard ended his closing argument with those bags.

Prosecutors entered photos showing what was inside the bags into evidence but didn't show them to the jury. Jurors could have chosen to look at them during deliberations if they wanted. "If you have any doubt for the appropriate sentence for that man, look in the bag!" Hubbard said.

The defense focused on what Jones Jr's lawyers called undiagnosed schizophrenia made worse by drug and alcohol use. Jurors last week rejected their arguments that Jones was not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill. During his closing argument, defense lawyer Casey Secor focused on how much Jones Jr. is loved by his family even after the killings.

His grandmother, father and siblings all asked jurors to spare his life. "How much more death does the Jones family have to endure? How many more funerals does this family have to go to? How many more tears do they have to shed? How much more heartache to they have to endure?" Secor said.

The children's mother also said she wouldn't choose the death penalty for Jones Jr. because she's against capital punishment but would respect the jury's decision. Secor said under the law, any juror could decide on life for any reason or for no reason at all. "You can punish Tim severely with a punishment of life in prison without the possibility of parole and be merciful to the people who still love these children," Secor said.

Following the trial, the prosecutor said what will stay with him most is the suffering of 6-year-old Nahtahn, the chief target of his father's anger. "That little 6-year-old bore a lot for a long time," Hubbard said.

With AP inputs.