LEXINGTON, S.C. — The Wednesday afternoon session of the Timothy Jones Jr murder trial in Lexington County Courthouse began with the defense team calling Sgt Adam Creech with the Lexington County Sheriffs Department.
On Sept. 4, 2014, Creech was assigned to the missing persons case involving Tim Jones and his five children — Abigail, 1; Gabriel, 2; Nahtahn, 6; Elias, 7; and Mera Gracie, 8. There were no indications at time, no concerns for safety of persons involved.
Creech was aware that a welfare check called in by Houck at Saxe Gotha Elementary, and that later that evening Tim Jones Sr had called the Lexington County Sheriffs Depaterment and deputies reached out to Jones’ ex-wife Amber to file actual report. In creating the missing persons report, the information on Tim and the children was sent to the national NCIC database of missing children.
Creech walked the jury though the investigative process that he went through that took him to Smith County Mississippi and to Timothy Jones Jr on Sept. 8, 2014:
After the missing person report was filed, Creech began by reaching out to anyone who might know where Jones and his children might be. The list included co-workers, family and friends.
Jim McConnell, Jones’s boss at Intel, told Creech that Tim loved his children “immensely” and offered the services of Intel internal security in the search for the family.
Creech testified that he drove to Jones’ mobile home in Red Bank to see if the family was there. He found the front door unlocked, checked inside, saw that the interior looked disheveled and there was no indication anyone was staying there.
On Sept 6, Creech at home when he received a call from the front desk of the Lexington County Sheriffs Department. He testifies that the call was unusual — his NCIC warning had a hit, and Undersheriff Marty Patterson of Smith County Mississippi had left a message for Creech to please call him.
Deputies in Smith County had been working a traffic safety stop and had detained Tim Jones under suspicion of under the influence of Spice. Patterson had been called to the scene after Jones’ name and the names of his children popped up on the NCIC alert after running an ID check on Jones’ divers license. On phone, Creech testifies that he could hear Tim Jones in background telling someone he had no children. Creech testifies that the asked Patterson to ask Jones again about the children at which time Jones said he had three in South Carolina.
Creech testified that he called supervisor and expressed concern after the phone call with Patterson ended, especially after Patterson said there was a smell of decomposition coming from Jones’ Escalade.
At 2 p.m. on Sept 7, 2014, a search warrant was executed on Jones’ vehicle in Mississippi. In it, investigators found receipts and, from those receipts, determined that if a crime had been committed, it had been committed in Lexington County.
The receipts showed that Jones had been traveling through the Southeast with stops in Greenville, SC; Athens, GA; Walmart in West Columbia; Advance Auto in Lake City, SC; a convenience store in Camden, SC; Dollar General in Orangeburg, SC; back to Lexington before stops in Alabama and a Taco Bell in Laurel, Mississippi. It is now known that the bodies of the five dead children were in the back seat from the evening of Aug. 28 to the morning of Sept. 6, 2014.
The decision was made by law enforcement agencies that Creech would travel to Smith County Mississippi. Local law enforcement had interviewed Jones the night before, on Sept. 7, without getting any information about the children. The interview had even included Jones’ father Tim Jones Sr.
On the ride down, Creech and FBI Special Agent David Mackey talked strategy for the upcoming interview with Timothy Jones Jr. Creech would take on the roll of “good cop” to Mackey’s more straightforward approach of asking questions. He would act as a calming influence on Jones during the interview, his main goal was to find the children.
Creech testifies that after being briefed by Smith County detectives and agents from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Creech reviewed Jones’ vehicle himself.
The interview started around 7:30pm. On Sept, 8. In 2014, it was not yet normal procedure to video/audio record interviews with suspects in a crime. On the drive to Mississippi, Creech purchased digital recorder.
Creech testifies that he told Jones he was being recorded. Jones was then Mirandized and he agreed to talk. Creech had been building a rapport with Jones before asking questions about his children. He said Jones seemed nervous when he first walked in so he talked to Jones about work to calm him down. Then he discussed Jones’ general health; some medications found in car to support minor digestive problems.
Creech testifies that Jones’ speech was fast, he went off on tangents but Creech kept him on task; Jones stutters a bit in the interview.
Tim told Creech he used Scooby Snax, not Spice, and explained the chemical nature of Spice versus Scooby Snax. Jones had purchased the drugs in South Carolina and made specific designation that Scooby Snax was not illegal in that state. Jones self medicated with Spice — he used it to “level himself out, silence the voices in my head.”
About his mom: believed inherited psychological problems from mother, became upset “I think I got something of what she had” She had series of breakdowns when she was Tim’s age. Creech testifies that Jones said “if you can find out what wrong with her, you ll find out whats wrong with me.”
Tim’s speech pattern changes, takes the Miranda rights form and signs it, says he’s incriminating himself by doing so. “I know I’m prosecuting myself by doing this but I want to do the right thing.”
Tim finally admits to killing his children.
Creech testifies that after that exchange — one hour, 45 minutes into the interview — he realizes tape recorder is not on.
He tells Jones that he will have to start the recording, do a summary interview and ask Jones the same questions a second time. Jones agrees to redo the interview.
Creech had list of questions/questionnaire to ask Jones so he went through them twice; Jones’s answers were close enough to first round for Creech:
Creech to Jones: Would you have done it if you were elbow to elbow with law enforcement officer? “Yeah, I thought I was a target at the time”
Creech to Jones: Did you have hallucinations? “No just voices”
Creech to Jones: Did you have any other weird beliefs? “I’m a Freemason”
Jones recounts the events of Aug. 28: He picked the oldest children up from Saxe Gotha Elementary school, two youngest from babysitter Christina Ehlke.
Creech testifies Jones said on the tape that 6-year-old Nahtahn threatened him “When I grow up I’m going to kill you;” 7-year-old Elias said “I’m going to cut you up and feed you to the dogs.”
When asked about how could the children could be a threat? Jones replied, “Kids are intelligent” and therefore posed a danger to him. He thought they were going to kill him and told the investigators that he drove the children to Walmart and abandoned them in the parking lot; that Nahtahn was attempting to find a way to electrocute him in his sleep.
Agent Mackey accused Jones of killing the kids; Jones became erratic, tried to change topic; Jones said he was afraid of children and, Creech says, became “wild and erratic.”
When confronted with Walmart receipts, Jones had a reason for the items purchases: muriatic acid for a hobby; when confronted with information that investigators had found blood in his Escalade and signs of decomposition, Jones said it was possible from an animal; when told the sample had been tested and was human, Jones said it was from a cut; when told it was too much blood from a cut, Jones got quiet.
Creech offered a minimized explanation of what may have happened: Creech said what happened was possibly self defense because Jone said he was upset, thinking the kids would kill him. Creech tried empathy to bring stress levels down, at this point in the interview Jones was crying;. He tried reassuring Jones, telling him that he was “not trying to judge, he just want to know what happened.”
Mackey starts putting photos of children in front of Jones.
Creech testifies Jones began coming out of his chair screaming “keep them away from me” — his behavior indicative of someone fearful his life.
Then Jones’ demeanor changes: he became calm. Creech testifies Jones said, “Cut to the chase. You won’t find them, they are deceased… It wasn’t premeditated.”
Creech testifies Jones said he believed Nahtahn was up to something so he PTd him then hit and spanked him, pushed him for hours. He “pushed him too far,” then went to check on the boy later and found him deceased.
Creech testifies Jones focused on a “defiant” Nahtahn, and the issue of the boy not telling him about the broken electrical outlets.
When Jones starts talking about the actual murders, he says, “One in the five would have grown up to do something, the killing took care of that.”
Creech testifies Jones started with Elias; sought out Mera and strangled her with his hands. Her last words to him were “Daddy I love you.” Jones said he killed youngest with belt, at home.
Jones seemed uncertain of Nahtahn’s cause of death; and suggested to officers that the boy may have electrocuted himself. Jones said that after the children were dead, he smoked Scooby Snax to calm voices in his head before he wrapped the kids in blankets and put them in the back seat of the Escalade.
Creech testifies Jones said he “didn’t care if he got caught,” and in placing the bodies of the children in garbage bags for disposal, he was “not very careful with them because they were already dead.”
Although Jones has admitted to murdering his children, Creech testifies that he can’t get emotionally vested in the case; he still needs to find the children and get them home and put them to rest.
He tells Jones that the children deserved better. Jones agreed.
According to Creech’s testimony, Jones realized what he had admitted to and became engaged with retrieving the bodies.
Creech got Jones access to a computer with a mapping system (requested Windows computer) to help remember where he left the children.
On Sept 9, 2014: Tim Jones wants to help, he has agreed to find children. Investigators narrow down search grid by looking at receipts to Highway 10 in Alabama. The investigators go back over the Miranda rights with Jones. Jones continues his cooperation.
Creech is in the back of a Smith County Sheriffs car with Jones in the convoy. Jones is convinced he’d recognize where he left the children, he has drawn a map that proves to be “pretty accurate,” says Creech.
Creech reiterated to Tim to “do the right thing.” Jones becomes upset at the thought that the police would think he was taking the convoy on a wild goose chase when he made a single wrong turn. Creech gave him positive reinforcement during the process, telling Jones he wouldn’t punish him for helping with investigation.
“Once we get to the sight, it’ll probably be emotional for me,” said Jones.
Jones gestured to where the bodies were found; he is loaded back in the car to be taken back to Mississippi; helicopters landing, law enforcement from three states were on the scene.
Creech, riding back to Smith County along with Jones, tells him that he will be tape recording the return trip — about 25 minutes — with Jones. The audio tape is played for the jury.
Creech: You told us the truth you told us where to find the bodies. Tim, I have some things to go over with you, things that will come up in the investigation
You are aware of your rights?
Jones says yes
Creech: You told us last night when we found the bodies we’d have questions
Jones: It was assumed you’d have questions
Creech: What kind of shape were they in when you put them in the bags?
Jones: They’d been deceased for days. I was merciless when I put them in because they were already dead.
After a little more back-and-forth, Jones says, “For the record I’m so sorry, I want to see my kids again, Lord God forgive me.”
A little later, Creech asks Jones: When we open the bags, what will we find.. anything?
Jones: After the fact, I threw them in mercilessly, put trash in with them to cover the smell.
Creech lets the tape recorder run, tells Jones that he’s still recording in case Jones wants to say anything else.
Creech: You’re saying you strangled the four children, did you do anything other than strangle them?
Jones: I tried to make them suffer as little as possible. I don’t know what was going through their minds.
Creech asked what happened after the children were dead.
Jones: I sat around in a daze. They stayed in the car at home for a couple of days.
Creech: What was original plan?
Jones: Just get rid of the bodies by mutilating them… but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Nahtahn was the focal point for the whole thing. It centered around him; he was premeditating something toward me; Mera wanted to see her mom… I did this, made some bad choices.
After a while, Jones asks Creech if he will see him again and Creech begins to explain the extradition process that will being Jones back to South Carolina.
Jones says “lets get this thing done.”
“I pretty much have a target on my back” Jones starts crying; Creech tells him its remorse, you’re starting to feel it, you did the right thing.
Creech says to Jones that he seemed to have been mad about this (situation); Jones responds, “mostly my mind went blank… I didn’t grab him and kill him (Nahtahn).”
Later, Jones says the “voice said cut them up… feed them to the dogs… I was scared of the voices… you’ll have to have a press release about this… make sure they don’t put me in South Carolina mugshots (online line up).”
Creech tells Jones that once they’re back in Lexington County, the jail where he will be kept is in the same complex as Creech’s office and that he may be in touch with Jones to ask him more questions and if Jones wanted to talk to him, he could ask for him.
Jones said he drove kids around because he didn’t want to say goodbye yet.
Creech asked Jones if it (the murders) had anything to do with DSS or his ex-wife. Creech testified that Jones looked at him, surprised as if that was never on his mind.
Creech next sees Jones at the detention center on Sept 11. Jones asks Creech about autopsies. Creech says he tells Jones that Elaine, Elias, Mera and Gabriel were strangled, the cause of death for Nahtahn was listed as undetermined.
According to Creech, Jones says “see, I told you,” meaning the boy’s death was an accident.
Creech remarks to Jones “you did the right thing,” meaning leading law to the bodies; Jones said “what do you mean? I killed my f*cking kids!”
>>>>>>>>>>>>> THE CROSS
Solicitor Rick Hubbard begins cross-examination of Sgt Creech: on Sept 8, 2014, during the conversation, Jones brought up Scooby Snax
Creech: Jones was quick to point out the legality of the drug (in South Carolina)
Hubbard: When you confronted him about children
Creech: He became emotional
Hubbard: He tried to expend nervous energy
Creech: that what it seemed like
Hubbard: when he talks about Nahtahn and confronts him, he says he PTs him, spanks him and hits him, that’s as far as he went in his description (of what happened August 28, 2014)
Hubbard: Then he was deceased
Creech: yes. Then he went to the voices
Hubbard: The first was Tim you’re f*ed
Creech: Yes, then he said that no-one would believe him so he had to kill the rest. Creech said he asked Jones: Do you remember the words Nahtahn said to his mother? Jones said, “Mom I love you, I didn’t mean to do it.”
Hubbard: For hours Tim couldn’t get Nahtahn to confess, and Amber makes one call and Nahtahn tells her what happened. Jones repeatedly says Nahtahn was the focal point of all this and during some point Nahtahn is dead. Jones has phone but doesn’t call 911.
Creech says Jones told him no one would believe him… the voice said “Tim you’re f*cked now.” Jones said he later killed the other four kids and then downloaded graphic male on male rape scene from movie
Hubbard: Doesn’t call 911. If Jones had just run, and left the four kids, how would LCSD handled it?
Creech: Talked to kids
Hubbard: Jones had confessed so he had nothing else to lose; prior to confession, he lied about what he did, said he had no kids, that they were in SC, that he left them at Walmart. He did go to Walmart to buy items to dispose of the body
Creech IDs surveillance photos from Walmart showing Jones at register and leaving the store with purchases in bags
Hubbard: When initially asked about jab saw, he said it was for cutting limbs; muriatic acid for etching pic; later admits took time to shop to dismember and dispose of his children… Confronted with handwritten notes from his car, Jones admitted they were in his handwriting but says he can’t remember what it was about; Jones admitted lying that these were plans he came up with; along with lists…
Hubbard asks Creech to read out the notes: Loose ends: Terry (Creech identified him as Jones’ landlord), Christian (the Jones’ babysitter), Jim Mc (intel) (Jones’ boss), SGE (Saxe Gotha Elementary), B&G (boys and girls club); pediatrician; Amber (Jones’ ex-wife); Bills: TWC, SCE&G, post office, car, bank account; a third note lists tattoos, glasses, hunting gear
The question about the lists is meant to show what Creech would be looking for during the course of an investigation that suggests a plan of action from a suspect in a crime.
The cross examination ended at 5 p.m. and will continue Thursday morning when court resumes.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> THE CHARGES
Jones 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 at 2155-B South Lake Dr. in Red Bank.
He 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.
Jones has pled guilty by reason of insanity. His guilty plea would allow one of four possible outcomes in the trial: guilty, guilty by reason of insanity, not guilty by mental defect, or not guilty.
If found guilty, the death penalty would not be automatic. Jurors would then be asked to consider extenuating circumstances and could sentence Jones to life without parole rather than death.