Voices in Timothy Jones Jr.'s head led to him to kill four of his young children one-by-one after his son died during punishment over blown electric sockets in 2014, according to a tape of Jones' confession to FBI agents.
"Daddy, I love you" were the last words of his 8-year-old daughter Merah before her father strangled her to death, FBI agent David Mackey testified Friday.
Jones dabbed away tears with a light blue bandanna as the audio tape played during his death-penalty murder trial in Lexington County. The 37-year-old computer engineer has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorneys said Jones is a schizophrenic who tried to self-medicate with drugs.
After Jones was arrested at a Mississippi checkpoint nine days after the killings, Mackey testified he got a reluctant Jones, still insisting he had dropped off his children at a Walmart, to talk after showing him photos of his kids. Jones started crying and eventually said, "Let's cut to the chase."
During the 48-minute interrogation, Jones said he forced his son Nahtahn, 6, to perform push-ups and squats after he did not say what happened to the sockets. Jones said he also smacked Nahtahn twice. He eventually sent the boy to bed and said he found him dead a little later that evening.
"Then the (expletive) hits the fan," Jones told authorities. "The voices started going off. And here comes the paranoia. Oh (expletive), what just happened?"
Jones said the voices told him to kill his other kids because they were conspiring against him and he needed to protect himself. Jones said he had thoughts about killing his children previously but never acted on it before that August 2014 night.
"At the time, I didn't think any of it was wrong," he said. "It was just happenstance and so let me finish it up now."
Elias was the first of the children to die after Nahtahn. "Take me with dad ..." were Elias's last words before Jones said he strangled the 7-year-old. Elias fought back, as did his older sister, who was the next to die.
"They didn't want go," Jones said. "They didn't want their lives taken."
Jones said he then went into the rooms of Gabriel, 2, and Elaine Marie, 1, and wrapped a belt around each of their throats and tightened it.
Gabriel said, "I love you," before he died, Jones told authorities.
Jones said he wrapped the children in blankets and sheets and stacked their bodies on the backseat floorboards of his Cadillac Escalade.
"I was running on fear and I wasn't thinking," Jones said. "Any normal person would have said, 'Let's call the police and turn myself in.' I took the coward route and started following those voices in my head."
Jones drove around South Carolina and the Southeast with his kids' bodies inside the SUV.
According to other testimony Friday, he shopped at a Dollar General, where he bought trash bags for their bodies, and a Walmart, where he bought a saw, acid, goggles and a pail, along with candy and Gatorade. Police found a list in his car that included "Melt bodies! Sand bones to dust or small pieces."
Prosecutors showed a lengthy video of him waiting to get an order of cheese sticks and curly fries at a convenience store. Jones told authorities that he even got stuck in a ditch and needed help from tow truck. A police officer stopped to check on him briefly.
Jones blamed Nahtahn for the murders, saying that if the boy just explained what happened with the electric sockets that his siblings would still be alive.
Jones said he started to try to saw off one of Nahtahn's legs but couldn't go through with it. He put his son's corpse back in the trash bag before he dumped the bodies on a Alabama logging road.
"I put them over there and said a prayer for them," Jones said, sobbing on the tape.
Jones said he did little to cover up the bodies and kept saying he was not a very good criminal.
"There ain't no hiding this," Jones said. "I'm going to get caught. I'm just buying time."
After he disposed of their bodies, Jones told authorities he withdrew $500 with plans to go to Las Vegas.
He said he confessed because, "I want to do the right thing."
At the end of the interrogation, Jones was asked what he would say about the killings.
"God, I'm sorry," he wept. "Children, I love you. I hope to see you again someday if I am worthy to."
Friday was the fourth day of the trial. Testimony will resume on Monday.