LEXINGTON, S.C. — Several family members of the man convicted of killing his five children begged the jury deciding to fate to spare him from the death penalty, as the penalty phase of the trial nears its end.
Jurors will hear final arguments Thursday from prosecutors and defense attorneys before deciding if they'll sentence Timothy Jones Jr. to die for killing his five children. The defense rested Wednesday in the sentencing phase of the trial after nearly four days of calling character witnesses and experts.
Jones was found guilty last week on five counts of murder for killing his children — Abigail Elaine, 1; Gabriel, 2; Nahtahn, 6; Elias, 7; and Merah Gracie, 8 — on August 28, 2014.
On Monday, Tim Jones Sr and Roberta Thornsberry — Jones’ father and grandmother — were the main witnesses, pleading with the jury to sentence Tim Jones Jr to life in prison rather than the death penalty.
On Tuesday, Jones’s ex-wife, Amber Jones Kyzer, took the stand. The mother of the five slain children had been subpoenaed to appear and testified on the stand that, although she did not favor the death penalty, she would honor and respect the decision of the jury.
She had been following the trial and added, “when I heard what my kids went through and endured… if I could personally rip his face off I would to make him feel everything they felt. I don’t think I have the right to (do that).”
On Wednesday, the defense team called Tim Jones Jr’s stepmother Julie Jones, his two half brothers, and a stepsister.
Julie Jones married Tim Sr after meeting him through an online dating service. Tim Jr had helped his father create his online profile. The boy was around 16 when the two adults met and later married.
Julie Jones says Tim Jr helped her take care of her small children when she had to work on weekends. The family became rather closeknit and when Tim married Amber and started having children of his own, Julie and Tim Sr were there to help.
The jury is shown photographs of the grandchildren on or close to the dates of their birth. Julie Jones is shown holding the babies at the Jones home and in the hospital. There’s a family photo of Tim, Merah, Elias, and newborn Nahtahn crowded around Amber in the hospital bed.
She recalls when the phone rang at 11pm on August 28, 2014, Tim Sr answered the phone and heard that the Smith County Sheriffs Department say they had Tim Jr but not the kids. She says she heard Tim Sr tell the officer that he didn’t have the kids either.
She testified that she and her husband immediately left their home and drove toward Smith County but were turned back by law enforcement. They returned home, called Roberta Thornsberry and Amber Jones and drove to Smith County the next morning.
Working with investigators from Mississippi and Lexington, SC, Julie and Sr helped find the babies.
Julie Jones testified that the children were memorialized at Jones Sr’s home in Mississippi. Fir weeks afterward, she testified, Tim Jones Sr would cry for hours while sitting in front of photos of his grandchildren.
Despite everything, she said, “I love Tim very. very much, he’s my son.”
She wants mercy for him, a life sentence rather than death. “He can pay a debt to society… He still has so much to give.”
Secor asks if she and Tim Sr. will continue to have a relationship with Tim Jr, “Yes. He is still much a part of the family.”
Travis and Tyler Jones are half brothers by Tim Jones Sr and his wife Carolyn.
They both testified that they looked up to Tim as an older brother — Jones was 9 when Jones Sr married their mother.
Tyler said that he had “been stuck in Mississippi for three years” after their grandmother, Roberta Thornsberry, called him to ask one of the boys to return to look after Tim Jones Sr since he was not taking the deaths of Tim Jones Jr’s children well.
“What (Tim Jones Jr) did was horrible, he took away five family members,” Tyler said, but he says this family can’t stand any more death.
Travis says Tim encouraged him to further his eduction and has enrolled in community college, and that Tim was a calming force in his life.
“I’ve lost so many people in my life, please don’t make my family endure this (death penalty),” he cried on the stand.
Jacqueline (Jones) Rangel, the younger step sister by Julie Jones, recalled spending time with Tim and Amber in Mississippi and taking care of the three oldest children.
“They were perfect little kids,” said Rangel.
“The brother I know was loving and caring… never seen him do anything bad. Its hard for me to be here because it hurts.”
While Tim Jones Jr has been incarcerated, he missed Rangel’s wedding and the birth of her first child.
“I feel angry and broken,” she said.
She glimpses bits of the five dead children in her own child and Julie and Tim Sr have become overprotective grandparents.
Rangel says she’s not mad at Tim and forgives him. “The Timmy I know is full of compassion.”
Rangel is the last witness for the defense before it rests.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> OTHER TUESDAY TESTIMONY
Amber’s testimony on Tuesday interrupted that of Deborah Grey — a licensed clinical social worker and family counselor who compiled a psychosocial history of the Jones family, going back three generations.
Grey had begun Tuesday morning with an overview of the Jones family’s history. Her testimony continued after Kyzer left the stand.
Jones’ defense team wanted the jury to see a family whose chaotic background and social conditions may have affected Tim Jones Jr ’s personality.
A summary of the Jones family showed:
- Roberta was sexually molested at age 8 by her stepfather and gave birth to Tim Jones Sr at age 12, escaped her stepfather at age 17.
- Her life with her second husband was volatile with police reports of shootings, stabbings, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, and possession of drugs.
- Tim Sr married Tim’s mother Cynthia at age 19
- Cynthia had moved in to Thornsberry’s home to escape sexual abuse in her home
- Tim Sr and Cynthia’s marriage is also a volatile affair… Cynthia reports Tim Sr for abuse and leaves the marriage. She returns to try to take Tim Jr and is stopped by Thornsberry
- Tim Sr gains custody and Tim Jr is raised by Thornsberry
- Tim Sr remarries
- As a teenager, Tim Jr is involved in a car accident and receives traumatic brain injury. He is arrested for stealing a car and possession of drugs and spends time in jail/boot camp
- He finds religion — and Amber.
- Jones and Amber marry at age 19
- Jones attends Mississippi State University, graduates summa cum laude; at this time the young couple have three small children.
- Jones accepts a job at Intel in Blythewood and moves the family to a trailer in Lexington, Amber is pregnant with Gabriel.
- Jones does well at work, becomes increasingly controlling at home, Amber is left with the children and animals Tim purchased in an attempt at homesteading
- The marriage continues to deteriorate, Tim takes the children to spend the summer with family in Mississippi; DSS is called
- Amber leaves the marriage, Tim begins to spin out of control. He has not spoken to his father in a year
Solicitor Rick Hubbard cross-examines Grey and asks if Jones was ever told he was unloved as a child. No, quite the opposite.
Hubbard: Is Jones a reliable historian?
Grey: some things he self-reported I could not corroborate
Hubbard said that Tim Jones Jr’s life consisted of a pattern of choices:
- Jones chose to go to school, continue in school, get a degree
- Got married, chose to have children. The marriage brought stability — Tim never smoked, drank, did drugs; he chose to stay sober during marriage
- When marriage failed went to counseling
- Chose not to take medication to help
- Chose to self medicate with illegal drugs and Spice
- Chose not to speak to his father for 18 months; not to turn to his family when he had troubles
- Chose to inflict a lifetime of pain with his actions.
Tim Jones chose to ignore pleas of mercy from his children; chose to murder his five children.
The death penalty is not automatic in this case — jurors could consider extenuating circumstances and sentence Jones to life without parole, rather than death. All twelve deciding jurors must be in agreement and sign the verdict form.
The State will begin with closing arguments Thursday morning, the defense team will follow. After both sides have finished, Judge Eugene Griffith Jr with charge the jury with deciding the fate of Tim Jones Jr.
Lawyers from both sides have said that the case should go to the jury by lunchtime on Thursday, a decision could be rendered by late Thursday afternoon.