COLUMBIA, S.C. (TCD) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a 41-year-old man’s conviction and death sentence after he was found guilty in 2019 of killing his five children, all under the age of 8.
According to the court’s opinion published July 19, Timothy Jones Jr. appealed the conviction on the grounds of juror qualification, voir dire, and other rulings made during the sentencing and guilt phases of the trial. The opinion said, "We affirm the juror qualification, voir dire, and jury instruction rulings. We hold the trial court erred in certain evidentiary rulings; however, we hold the errors were harmless and affirm Jones’s conviction and death sentence."
A jury convicted Jones of five counts of murder in June 2019, WIS-TV reports. Jones reportedly pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The opinion states Jones had primary custody of his and his ex-wife’s five children: 1-year-old Abigail, 2-year-old Gabriel, 6-year-old Nahtahn, 7-year-old Elias, and 8-year-old Merah. On Aug. 28, 2014, Jones reportedly smoked "spice," a type of synthetic marijuana, at work due to the "stress of an impending project."
He retrieved the two youngest kids from a neighbor’s house and the other three from an after-school program. When they got home, Jones noticed one of the electrical outlets stopped working, so he "accused Nahtahn of tampering with the outlet because Nahtahn had an unusual interest in electricity."
Jones reportedly wanted Nahtahn to confess to tampering with the outlet, so he made the 6-year-old perform 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 200 squats. Nahtahn called his mother and Jones overheard his son say the outlet malfunction was "an accident."
When Nahtahn was in bed, Jones shook him and "demanded to know what happened to the outlet." The child then "collapsed to the floor" and stopped breathing.
Following that, Jones "searched the internet for a violent male-on-male rape scene from the movie 'American History X' and began to fear the things he would endure in prison as a 'baby killer.'"
Jones drove Merah to a convenience store, where he bought 10 packs of cigarettes, and on his way home, he "heard voices in his head telling him to kill his other four children because they would be better off in heaven than without parents."
When they got home, Jones strangled Elias and Merah to death with his hands, and then used a belt on Abigail and Gabriel "because his hands were too big to wrap around their tiny necks."
Jones reportedly attempted to kill himself by smoking several more bowls of spice and became paranoid. He wrapped up his children in bedsheets, put them in his car, and drove around with their bodies for over a week. He reportedly drove through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and bought goggles, a saw, chemicals, and other items. He left his children’s bodies on the side of the road in Pine Apple, Alabama.
While driving through Mississippi, he got stopped at a checkpoint and an officer noticed "a strong odor of burnt marijuana and garbage coming from the vehicle."
The opinion says the officer checked Jones' vehicle and found bleach stains, synthetic marijuana, bleach, and charcoal fluid. He also reportedly found a note that said, "'Head to campground,' 'Melt bodies,' 'Sand to dust or small pieces,' 'Day 1: Burn up bodies. Day 2: Sand down bones, Day 3: Mexican border :), dissolve, and discard.'"
He was arrested on several drug charges. Then, police learned the vehicle was connected to five missing children. He confessed to killing his kids and later led investigators to their bodies.
According to the criminal complaint, "The bodies were still in trash bags, and the children were unrecognizable due to severe decomposition and animal activity."
Most of the Supreme Court justices agreed in the opinion that the decision to show "horrific" autopsy photographs "had no probative value," though "after weighing the horrific facts of this case against the improper admission of the photographs, we hold the photographs did not contribute to the jury’s sentence of death."
Justice John Cannon Few, however, disagreed with the belief that the autopsy photographs should not have been shared at trial.
Few wrote, "Like the other Justices, I have seen — and sat with — these photographs. It is not possible to describe them. They are literally unbearable. A death penalty trial, however — like a man’s heinous murder of his own children — is itself a gruesome business, and even without photographs such as these, evidence of what this man did to his children certainly caused a forceful, emotional reaction from the jury."
He added, "Timothy Ray Jones Jr. took a long series of planned and deliberate actions, first to murder his own children, then to conceal his vicious crimes, and finally to leave the bodies of his own children for the purpose of having them deteriorate to the condition shown in the photographs. His crimes were unspeakable; his efforts to get away with his crimes were unconscionable; he is despicable."