LEXINGTON, S.C. — Jurors in the trial of the South Carolina man accused of killing his five children heard what prosecutors say is an audio confession from the man, recorded only two days after his arrest.
It was an emotional of testimony as Timothy Jones Jr., the accused, broke down in tears multiple times as the recording was played. Jones Jr. has admitted to killing his children on Aug. 28, 2014 after picking them up from school and daycare. The killings took place at the family home on South Lake Drive in Red Bank.
Jones is arguing he's not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Jones was arrested on Sept. 6, 2014, after a traffic stop in Smith County, Mississippi, during which law enforcement officers discovered blood and handwritten notes on how to mutilate bodies in Jones’ car.
Jones had left the children’s bodies in plastic trash bags in a wooded area outside of Camden, Alabama. He had been traveling throughout the South with the bodies in the back of his car since Aug. 28.
Friday morning testimony in the Timothy Jones murder trial began with testimony from Smith County (Mississippi) Sheriff Charlie Crumpton about interviews he had with Jones.
Sheriff Charlie Crumpton in Smith County Mississippi, 24 years in office, retiring this year
On the evening of Sept 6, 2014, Crumpton was out of town with family but returned early Sunday morning after being notified of Timothy Jones’ arrest.
Crumpton was in the interview with Timothy Jones on Sept 7, along with Tim Jones Sr, Julie Jones (Tim’s step mother) and other law enforcement officers.
Jones Sr was concerned as grandfather of 5 children and was described by Crumpton as being very cooperative.
At the time of the interview, Crumpton thought at least 4 of the children were still alive nd his main objective was to find them. No one had no idea where the children might be.
As far as the Miranda incident that was brought up in court on Thursday, Crumpton thought the incident was very unusual: Jones grabbed Miranda form out of Smith County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnson’s hand and read it aloud before scribbled his signature on the bottom of the page.
Crumpton testified he had never seen someone quite as strung out as Jones was that day, exhibiting very odd behavior, from screaming and crying to quiet. Jones was sweating unbelievably even in the cold air conditioning in the room.
The sheriff testified that he, nor anyone on his staff, had ever dealt with someone on Spice before, although they had seen meth, alcohol and drug users.
It wasn’t until later that Smith County encountered others under the influence of Spice and Crumpton realized Jones was under the influence during the interview.
Crumpton testified that even under the influence, Jones could answer, Jones was responsive, he could communicate in a question/answer formant, and understood why he was there.
When Crumpton asked Jones about middle child, he accidentally mispronounced the child’s name as “Nathan.” Jones screamed at Crumpton: “it’s NAHTAHN!”
When the name came up time and again, Crumpton said, “(Jones) became a different person when that name came up.”
Based on that reaction, Crumpton knew something had happened to some of the children. From the anger Jones showed at the mention of Nahtahn, Crumpton thought Jones may have done something to him in particular.
Near the end of the interview, Crumpton testified that Jones’ father was concerned for grandchildren and Tim.
Jones Sr asked Jones Jr, “son did you hurt the children?”
According to testimony, Jones Jr jumped up and grabbed his father by the throat and said “YES” then “no.”
By his actions, Crumpton thought Jones Jr was showing them what he had done to the children.
Timothy Jones Jr did not confess to killing his children that night.
Jones Jr was brought back next day, Sept 8, for another interview.
Adam Creech of Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, and officers from the FBI and SLED officer, along with Crumpton and Johnson conducted the interview.
According to Crumpton, on Sept 8, Jones was a totally different person: no sweating, no emotional ups and downs.
Jones told investigators from FBI and Lexington County that he had killed the children.
On Sept 9, a convoy of law enforcement officials went to look for the bodies a little after noon, heading to Alabama.
Jones had told them where they bodies would be found.
According to Crumpton, the trip took about 3 hours, around 179 miles in a convoy. In order to save daylight, officers from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and SLED — in 4 or 5 vehicles — sped along at 100 mph to get to the location in Alabama that Jones directed them to.
Alabama State Troopers cleared the way once they hit the state line.
The convoy made one stop on a red dirt logging road that was not the correct location, and took a second to get oriented. Jones said “this is not the right place” convoy restarted toward Camden, Alabama.
Not too far down the road, convoy made another turn down another logging road off the 2-lane state Highway 10. The convoy parked and walked about 50-60 yards up an incline and Crumpton said he was going by scent, following what they were smelling.
Another 50 yards passed then, Jones, in shackles, yelled “they’re over there.”
Around 4:30-5 p.m., the bodies of the children — Elaine, 1; Gabriel, 2; Nahtahn, 6; Elias, 7; and Mera Gracie, 8 — were found in bags in a trash pile of timber tops where timber company stripped off limbs and tops off logs; one body was exposed
Crumpton had Jones in his custody, and for Jones’ safety, Crumpton had Jones put back in the car and the Smith County officers left the scene.
Defense attorney Casey Secor asked Crumpton: “On Sept 7, you met with Jones, you heard him say things that didn’t make much sense: that his mother (Cindy) put things in his head, and you thought he was under the influence of something, and he had been in custody for 20 hours where someone put eyes on him every 15 minutes (suicide watch).”
Upon cross examination, Crumtpon restated that
- Jones was listed as “under the influence" on the inmate intake form.
- Mispronouncing Nahtahn’s name caused visceral reaction.
- Crumpton thought that if any child was dead at that point it would have been Nahtahn.
Secor asked Crumpton if he’d ever seen anything like (the way Jones was acting) at that time. Crumpton testified he had never seen anyone before that strung out on Spice, it had not been in Smith County before that time, to his knowledge, and the sheriff had taken steps to ban it in the county after seeing the effects of methanphetomines.
Blood samples collected from Jones on Sept 7 were tested and found positive for Spice.
A DEA doctor said, according to Crumpton, there were several different versions of Spice; the doctor said with fear in his voice: ”sir, looks like we’ve got a monster on our hands” pertaining to the potency of the drug.
On re-direct with Solicitor Hubbard asked Crumpton if there were any red flags pertaining to mental health during interview with Jones? No.
Crumpton says in a rural county like his he and his people have to handle mental health cases and Jones didn’t present as a mental case.
Keith McMahan, from the Mississippi forensics lab in Meridian, is a forensic drug analyst, expert in the field of controlled substances, forensic drug analysis
Analyzed evidence obtained from Jones’ Escalade on Sept 6.
In lab, McMahan inspected the evidence and sampled it for analysis: an aluminum can crushed on one side and two zippered plastic bags marked “Scooby Snacks” that contained an organic material
Two tests were done on the can to test for retention time (using mass spectrometer) to identify compounds on the can
Results showed can contained trace amounts of synthetic marijuana, a stimulate similar to marijuana but made with any innocuous plant material that has been sprayed with the controlled substance; 3.765 grams (combined) of plantlike material in the bags
Under cross-examination, McMahan noted that Spice was not on federal ban list until 2015 but in Mississippi it was banned on July 15, 2014. It was illegal in Mississippi when Jones was in the state
Lt Dustin Smith, current chief toxicologist at SLED, certified forensic toxicologist and an expert in the field of forensic toxicology
Smith talks about the history of synthetic cannabis, or Spice: originally created as an appetite stimulate for cancer patients and others having trouble eating, the first iterations closely mimicked effects of real marijuana.
Chemicals were added to alter compound formulas after feds deemed one version illegal. The synthetic marijuana of 2014 is very different from what is on the market today.
Side effects of Spice include agitation, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, psychosis or altered mental state, excited delirium — all very different from traditional marijuana use; physical effects of Spice can show as lethargy, drowsiness, and slurred speech, increased or decreased heart rate (depending on dosage), increased/decreased body temperature
People can become addicted easily and withdrawal can be acute.
When you stop taking the drug, withdrawal symptoms can cause dysphoric state: depression, physical pain. The more you’ve taken, the worse the withdrawal.
Spice was NOT illegal in South Carolina in 2014
Jones’ defense points out that effect of Spice is similar to mental illness; and can amplify mental illness in users with pre-exisiting mental illness. Underlying depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by use of Spice.
Before breaking fo lunch, prosecutors called witnesses to establish a timeline and put forward their case that Jones was sane at the time he murdered his five children and then disposed of the bodies.
The court first heard from Keenan Frederick, co-manager at Walmart in West Columbia in 2014.
Law enforcement agents came to the Lexington County Walmart in regards to a receipt found in Jones’ Escalade, and asked Frederick to look up store surveillance video from the time stamp on the receipt.
The transaction took place at 11:05:16 a.m., on Sept 3, 2014 on the Walmart register 33. Items on receipt are listed with UPC codes so duplicate items can be pulled from stock to compared to those found in the Escalade.
Surveillance video shot from the roof of the garden center shows a dark colored SUV pulls in the Walmart parking lot and parks along the last row, away from other cars. A male gets out of the car, appears to be alone, and walks toward the store.
At the register, a man (allegedly Tim Jones) in a maroon shirt, jeans and ball cap is seen checking out. The items that he purchased are stocked throughout the store: candy sold in grocery and in the front of the store, Gatorade in the back, all other items in hardware.
The man pays with cash and takes items from register area.
From another camera angle at the store’s exit, Jones is videoed leaving the store with his purchases; he is picked up again in video from the roof of garden area walking to the dark colored SUV near end of parking lot.
Photos of items purchased that day include: safety goggles, 3-pack bag of dust masks, blue 5-gallon pail, bottle of muriatic acid, a jab saw (a thin bladed saw), Stanley FatMax multipack of saw blades (one missing)
According to Frederick and the video, the transaction appeared to be normal.
Jones’ defense wanted the jury to see on the video shot from the parking lot at Walmart that you can’t tell make or model of the SUV, that Walmart can’t track the SUV, nor can it clearly show who it was that went toor came from the SUV in the parking lot.
Prosecutors then called DENISE ATKINSON, currently working as a cashier/cook/stockperson at Exxon in Camden, SC.
Video surveillance was requested by Lee County law enforcement from a time stamp on a receipt, Sept 4, 11:16 a.m., found in Jones’ Escalade at the time of his arrest in Mississippi.
Itemized receipt shows Jones purchased cheese sticks, fries, 5 packs Newport Reds, and gas from a pump.
Surveillance video from the convenience store shows at 11 am, a man in a plaid shirt and black jeans places order for food and sits at counter while food is prepared at grill. At the register, he hands over ID for cigarettes.
Atkinson says as she checks his ID against his credit card, he’s following her directions during purchase. The man, identified as Timothy Jones Jr, swipes card and signs receipt. He then waits at grill for food… about 4 to 5 minutes.
Atkinson testified that Jones would nod to customers while waiting for food, seemed normal, and very polite.
Before breaking for lunch, the State called MARTY LONGSHORE, currently an investigator with SC Attorney General, he is a former Lexington County investigator.
In 2014, it was his job to use the receipts collected in evidence from Jones’ SUV to establish a timeline and to inventory the items purchased by Jones between Aug. 28 and his arrest on Sept. 6.
Longshore was able to use a Dollar General receipt to purchase duplicate items for comparison to items listed on the receipt pulled from Jones’ SUV — large trash bags and a pair of sunglasses.
The court then broke for lunch.
The afternoon session began with David Mackey, a FBI field agent in 2014.
Mackey was contacted Sept 7 in Jones case; Amber and other family members were looking for the children and there was concern about potential kidnapping and assistance to other local law enforcement agencies.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Office (Adam Creech) and SLED (Dave Lawrence) had reached out to FBI, they knew Jones was in custody in Mississippi.
En route to Smith County Mississippi, the lawmen discussed how to conduct interview.
They did not yet know status of children and had no jurisdiction at the time.
Creech and Mackey were to conduct interview, they had not planned to bring Jones Sr into the interview.
Mackey Mirandized Jones at the beginning of the Sept 8 interview.
According to Mackey, Jones seemed to understand the Miranda process and indicated that he would talk and would be self-incriminating. During the interview, Jones pulled the form over to him and signed it, waiving right to counsel.
Mackey testified that Jones talked about his life and work, his education, Jones stated he was not under the influence of anything, thought he might suffer from the same issues as his mother, did not appear to be under the influence or withdrawal from any substance.
Eventually asked about children. Demeanor changed when talking about Elias and Nahtahn. The children were conspiring against him.
Jones reads his handwritten notes but doesn’t recall writing the notes that were found in his Escalade, denies knowing what his notes were about (“melting bodies, sanding bones”).
Says saw was for trimming limbs
Confronted w biological evidence, Jones says its from an animal, Jones says it came from a cut when sheriff says it tested positive as human blood.
Lays down photos of children. Jones began crying heavily and says “keep them away from me, I’m afraid.”
Mackey says Jones said he had dropped the kids off and was now seeming to be afraid of them, Mackey didn’t believe Jones was afraid.
Mackey goes back to Walmart receipt and says items are consistent with dismembering a body.
“Lets cut to the chase,” Jones says.
He began logically walking officials through what he did to his children.
Large parts he wouldn’t remember.
Aug 28, picked up kids, that evening he had confrontation with Nahtahn about four blown outlets in the house. To get his son to talk, he began to make his son do PT (pushups and squats) and hit him with his hands for an hour, his son was “defiant and wouldn’t come off it”
Son wouldn’t tell truth about the blown outlets, had he “come off this,” all of the children would still be alive. Knew he pushed him too far, sent Nahtahn to bed and was not breathing when he went to check on him later.
Jones denied it was premeditated and was an accident. It was the PT. Didn’t use objects or a pillow to hurt Nahtahn.
Jones then the voices said F, no one will believe you so you’ll have to kill the rest of the children. He tells Mackey the order: Elias, Mera, Gabriel and Elaine. The kids know. The kids struggled, Elias was strangled. Elias said “Daddy can I come with…”
Mera was strangled as she struggled against her father.
He thought the kids struggling was normal.
Gabriel was next. Jones hands were too big to strangle the smaller children so he used a belt. Jones demonstrated how he used the belt.
Jones said Gabriel's last words were “Daddy I love you.”
Blamed Nahtahn for the deaths of the five children.
Jones states he wraps children in bedsheets and stacks them in the floorboard behind the drivers seat. He wasn’t careful with the bodies, they were already dead so Jones doesn’t know how piece of decayed tissue was found in car.
Jones appears calm and coherent during the interview.
He said he used Spice after the children were dead to calm the voices in his head, and made plans to dispose of the children’s bodies.
Asked again about handwritten notes, he said they were ideas that he couldn’t follow through with (dismemberment).
Garbage bags and bleach were to place children in, although he said he also had other trash in the car he needed to get rid of.
About the smell of decomposition, Jones replied, “You get used to it.”
How do you feel about doing this, Jones said: part of him “felt bad — that no father should do this to his children, part of him said ‘fuck it’ they’re already dead.”
At one point during the interview, officers notice the tape recorder not working so they restart it and do a summary interview, going over questions already asked of Jones.
Jones has noticed this and on the tape can be heard as saying “Part 2” when it starts up.
Mackey says at this time Jones talks more about hearing voices and seeing people in the room.
After a brief recess, the 45-minute interview tape with Det. Creech and Timothy Jones from Sept 8 is played for the jury.
On the tape, you can hear Jones, calm at times, almost crying at others, talking about the events from Aug. 28 to his arrest on Sept 6.
- “KIds are in the back with air freshener,” Jones says when asked about traveling around from Aug 28 to Sept 6. The bodies were stacked in garbage bags on the floorboard behind the drivers seat.
- I used my hands to suffocate my kids, I used a belt on… I forget which ones.
- I didn’t plan this and I just f*cked up my entire life.
- The kids put up a fight, didn’t want to go, didn’t want their life taken.
- What person’s not? (going to put up a fight)
- Bleach got rid of the smell, and I like it because it makes things smell clean
- (after disposing of the bodies) I drove around with the intention that I would never have to see them again
After the tape, Mackey resumes testimony on the stand.
Mackey sat down with Jones and other law enforcement officials after the interview on Sept 8 to try to get Jones to give a location of the children.
Jones was given access to a computer with Google Maps to try and pinpoint the location of the children. He said he wanted his children to get a proper burial.
On Sept 9, the caravan left with Jones sitting next to Creech in one car. Before trip, Jones retold everything that had transpired since Aug 28 so that law enforcement could hear how he killed children.
Nahtahn had broken his prescription glasses earlier in the day, before the incident with the busted power outlets (he still harboring anger against his son, according to Mackey's testimony).
When the caravan pulled off on the second logging road, Mackey knew they were in right spot because Mackey overheard Jones telling Creech on the phone "this was the spot."
Mackey said when the pulled up, "you could smell the decay when the cars stopped."
After finding the bodies, Mackey didn’t open garbage bags but helped place them in body bags... he wanted to make sure none had been dismembered.