COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Supreme Court denied an appeal for Timothy Ray Jones Jr., who was sentenced to death in 2019 for killing his five children in their rural Lexington County trailer.
The high court's March 29 ruling denying the appeal of Jones' conviction and death penalty will keep him on the state's death row.
In 2014, Jones murdered his children — ages 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 — at their mobile home and then drove around the Southeast for nine days with their bodies in a Cadillac Escalade. He then left their trash-bagged remains on a logging road in Alabama.
He was later arrested in Mississippi. In 2019, he was sentenced to death despite pleadings from his family and ex-wife to spare him.
Jones' appeal raised a number of issues related to juror qualification, screening and instruction, as well as evidentiary rulings.
An opinion written by Justice George C. James Jr. said the trial court erred on certain evidence decisions but the errors were "harmless." Based on this, the court acted to "affirm Jones’s conviction and death sentence.”
One of the issues raised in the appeal were the autopsy photos of the children’s severely decomposed bodies, some of the faces and limbs partially eaten by animals.
Since the photos did not depict the initial state of the bodies after the murders, James said the photos were erroneously admitted in trial.
Although Justice John Cannon Few concurred with the court's overall ruling, he disagreed about the photos, saying he found no error in showing the pictures to the jury.
In a separate opinion, Few wrote there is “hardly anything ‘unfair’ in allowing the jury to see — not just hear — what this man did to the bodies of his children.”
“Like the other Justices, I have seen — and sat with — these photographs,” Few wrote. “It is not possible to describe them. They are literally unbearable.”
Jones had driven widely for nine days, as his children's bodies — wrapped in their own bedsheets — rotted in the backseat. Notes found in his car included plans for how he would destroy the bodies.
In Few’s separate opinion, he said leaving the bodies of his murdered children for the purpose of them to deteriorate to the condition shown in the photographs was part of a long series of planned and deliberate acts by Jones.
“His crimes were unspeakable; his efforts to get away with his crimes were unconscionable; he is despicable,” Few said. “The photographs show all that, and thus, the photographs have probative value.”