Timothy Jones Jr., 37, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity
A South Carolina man faces the death penalty for killing his five children and driving hundreds of miles with their bodies in his SUV for a week before disposing of them in Alabama.
Timothy Jones, Jr., 37, of Lexington, is charged with five counts of murder in the 2014 deaths of his children. His defense has conceded that he killed the children, but he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
His death penalty trial began on May 14 in Lexington County before a jury.
In court on Monday, his ex-wife broke down while reading a letter she wrote to her oldest daughter after she and Jones got divorced, telling the girl that “Mommy and Daddy were really blessed to have you,” the Associated Press and local station WSPA report.
“Oh, God. Oh, God!” Amber Kyzer said while sobbing in court. “My babies! My babies!”
Following a contentious break-up, Jones, a college-educated computer software engineer, ended up with custody of all five children — three boys and two girls.
Prosecutors say he killed his son Nahtahn, 6, after the boy broke an electrical outlet in their mobile home on Aug. 28, 2014.
Jones went on to strangle his oldest child, his 8-year-old daughter Merah, and his 7-year-old son, Elias, with his hands, prosecutors say.
According to prosecutors, Merah’s last words were, “Daddy, I love you,” reports WCSC.
Next, he wrapped a belt around the necks of his 2-year-old son, Gabriel, and his youngest child, 1-year-old Abigail, and ended their lives, prosecutors say, Fox News reports.
After stuffing their bodies in garbage bags, he loaded their remains into his Cadillac Escalade and drove for days through four states, sleeping in the SUV with the bodies in the back, The State reports.
He dumped his children’s badly decomposed bodies in a desolate part of Camden, Alabama.
On Sept. 6, 2014, he was arrested in Smith County, Mississippi, at a police checkpoint after an officer detected what he described on the stand as “the smell of death” in Jones’ SUV — along with blood, maggots and synthetic marijuana, officials said, The State reports.
During police questioning, Jones admitted to killing his children but claimed he did so in preemptive self-defense before they could “chop him up and feed him to the dogs,” according to his arrest warrant, The State reports.
In his confession to police that prosecutors played for jurors, Jones then admitted he lost his temper when Nahtahn broke the outlet.
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Jones said he found his son “deceased” several hours later, he said in the confession, The State reports.
“The voices started kicking in, saying, ‘You better do something, you are [expletive], Tim,’” he said in the confession.
He had taken the children to the beach and to Disney World at some point before the murders, prosecutors say.
On Monday, Kyzer testified that she married Jones because as a college graduate with a good job, he seemed smart and responsible, Fox News reports.
His demeanor toward her changed dramatically after they wed, she testified.
“I was merely to take care of the children. To keep them out of his way,” Kyzer testified.
Jones was allegedly livid when Kyzer had an affair with a 19-year-old neighbor, according to a 2012 affidavit obtained by The State.
Following a contentious split, Kyzer said she handed over custody of the children because he could support them on his $80,000 a year job, she testified.
In their opening statements, Jones’ lawyers claimed he suffers from undiagnosed schizophrenia, The State reports.
He allegedly snapped because of his wife’s cheating and because he was overwhelmed by taking care of five children, his lawyers said.
Jones’s attorneys did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.