LEXINGTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina man described as a smart, loving father confessed to killing his five children and then dumping their bodies in a secluded clearing along a rural road in Alabama, authorities said Wednesday.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr., 32, will be charged with five counts of murder, and officials believe he acted alone, Acting Sheriff Lewis McCarty of Lexington County said. Authorities think all five children — ages 1 to 8 —were killed at the same time, but they said they didn’t yet know how or why. Autopsies were scheduled to begin Thursday.
The case has unfolded over the past two weeks, covering five states and about 700 miles in what the sheriff called a “logistical nightmare.” It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon — when authorities made the gruesome discovery of the children’s bodies — that they went public with the case.
“We were trying to balance the children and the investigation against the releasing of information,” McCarty said. “I am a police officer. I’m not a politician. My job basically is to get this job done.”
Jones’ father, Timothy Jones Sr., said the family’s hearts are broken, and he called his son a loving dad.
“We do not have all the answers, and we may never have them,” he said in a brief statement outside his home in Amory, Mississippi. “But anyone who knows Little Tim will agree that he is not the animal he will be portrayed as through the media.” He did not take questions from reporters.
Timothy Jones Sr. said questions should be directed to the office of Boyd Young, who would represent his son. Young’s office in South Carolina refused to confirm that it is representing him and declined to comment on the case.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr. was stopped at what officials called a sobriety checkpoint Saturday in Mississippi. A deputy spotted bleach, blood and children’s clothes in his 2006 Cadillac Escalade. It would be another three days before the children’s bodies were discovered.
He was charged with driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance. When authorities ran his license plate, they discovered Jones and his five children had been reported missing by their mother.
Jones was taken into custody that day, and late Monday he confessed to deputies that he had killed his children and dumped their bodies, said Charlie Crumpton, sheriff of Smith County, Mississippi.
On Tuesday, Jones led authorities to the bodies off a dirt road in central Alabama. The spot is in an isolated area between the towns of Pine Apple and Oak Hill, about 25 miles west of an Interstate 65 exit. Investigators had worked late into the night using flood lights, but on Wednesday there was no sign of vehicles or people.
Jones’ father told officials his son was highly intelligent, but Crumpton said he had difficulty reading Jones’ emotions during the confession. “Sometimes he was up, sometimes he was down on himself,” Crumpton said.
The children were last seen Aug. 28. The older children were at school, and Jones picked up his younger kids at daycare. He was to return the children to their mother’s home Sept. 2, but never showed up. Their mother, Jones’ ex-wife, reported them missing Sept. 3.
South Carolina authorities did not issue an Amber Alert because the case didn’t meet the criteria and Jones had legal custody of his children, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said.
On Wednesday, food and other garbage were piled up outside Jones’ mobile home south of Lexington. The yard was overgrown, with broken toys strewn about.
A sign on font door said, “Is there life after death? Trespass here and find out” with a photo of a gun.
The children’s bodies have been brought back to South Carolina for the autopsies. Officials won’t comment on any causes of death until the autopsies are completed.
The children’s mother, Jones’ ex-wife, is in shock and distraught, McCarty said.
Records describe a messy divorce in October. His wife was having an affair with a neighbor, according to the divorce file. Jones was given primary custody, and a therapist called him “highly intelligent” and a “responsible father.”
Jones was an Intel engineer and made more than $70,000 a year, and his wife didn’t work outside the home or have a driver’s license, according to the records.
Authorities said that once he’s extradited from Mississippi to South Carolina, Jones will be charged with murder in the deaths of all five children.
“They were wonderful. They were happy,” Jones’ stepmother, Julie Jones said, sobbing, of the kids. “They were wonderful, beautiful.”
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; Seanna Adcox and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Adrian Sainz in Amory, Mississippi; and Jay Reeves in Oak Hill, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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