— A South Carolina man confessed to killing his five children, ages 1 to 8, then dumping their bodies wrapped in trash bags 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 were killed at the same time, but they said they don’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 was stopped at a traffic checkpoint in Mississippi on Saturday, authorities said. A deputy spotted bleach, blood and children’s clothes in his Cadillac Escalade. It would be another three days before the children’s bodies were discovered.
Pictured on a projection during a press conference are the five children of Timothy Ray Jones, ages 1-8, whose bodies were found outside the town of Camden, Ala. Jones is being held for charges in the childrens’ disappearance and murder. The press conference took place in the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department Training Center, Wed., Sept. 10, 2014. (Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT)
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.
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.
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said authorities did not issue an Amber Alert because the case didn’t meet the criteria — Jones had legal custody of his children.
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.
Jones — who worked as an engineer with Intel, with his 2013 divorce record showing he made more than $70,000 a year– was awaiting extradition from Mississippi on Wednesday.
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.
“I’m sure everybody wants to know the answers,” Jones’ father, Timothy Jones Sr., told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Amory, Mississippi. “It’s just a terrible tragedy.”
“They were wonderful. They were happy,” Jones’ stepmother, Julie Jones said of the five children as she cried. “They were wonderful, beautiful.”
Associated Press writers Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; and Jay Reeves in Oak Hill, Alabama, contributed to this report.