LEXINGTON — Hand-scribbled notes found inside Timothy Jones Jr.'s vehicle after his 2014 arrest lay out his gruesome plans for discarding the bodies of his five children as he drove around with them in the back of his SUV, according to prosecutors and testimony Thursday in his death penalty trial.
"Head to campground," reads the top of one list, followed by, "Melt bodies! Sand bones to dust or small pieces."
The notes were found on a clipboard in the front of Jones' Cadillac Escalade following his arrest at a safety checkpoint in rural Mississippi nine days after killing his children — ages 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 — in their trailer in rural Lexington County.
Another list reads, "Day 1: burn up bodies, Day 2: sand down bones, Day 3: MB :) dissolve and discard." It's unclear what "MB" after the smiley face stands for.
Jones, 37, is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. He is charged with five counts of murder in the deaths of Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Elaine Marie, 1.
Prosecutors accuse him of killing the 6-year-old in a rage after he blew an electrical outlet, then strangling the two oldest with his hands and the two youngest with a belt.
His attorneys do not dispute Jones killed the children. They argue the Intel computer engineer is a schizophrenic — undiagnosed at the time — who went on a downward spiral when his marriage crumbled due to his wife's infidelity and tried to "fix himself" with drugs and alcohol that worsened his paranoia.
They say in his warped mind, Jones thought he was spending time with the children as he drove randomly through the Southeast. He told authorities in Mississippi he thought the children would kill him.
Prosecutors contend the scribblings in Jones' vehicle, and his flight after killing them, show he knew what he did was wrong and was trying to protect himself.
Jones had already dumped his children's bodies in black plastic bags along a logging road in Alabama when he was stopped at the checkpoint Sept. 6, 2014. The stench emanating from the vehicle — a rank combination of Scooby Snax synthetic marijuana, decomposition and bleach — prompted deputies to ask him to pull over. The arresting officer initially thought he'd found a meth lab and called his boss, who knew differently as soon as he arrived.
"It’s a smell you don’t forget. It’s the smell of death," said Marty Patterson, undersheriff of the Smith County Sheriff's office in Mississippi.
Among the 12 boxes' worth of evidence collected from Jones' vehicle include a Walmart receipt that shows he bought a saw, multiple saw blades, five-gallon bucket, muriatic acid, a dust mask and goggles in West Columbia three days before his arrest. The acid bottle was empty when he was stopped.
Photos of the inside of the vehicle show bleach stains, blood pools and maggots in the back seat and "human tissue with hair" in the hatchback area.
"There was a lot going on there,” said Stacy Jones, explaining the photos she took as a forensic scientist with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
The scribblings seem to indicate Jones was trying to take control of his finances. They include a list of bills, a budget, and people's names under "loose ends." Notes under "how to improve" included plans to "get to 15 % in Roth 401(k)," "pay off cellphone remainder," and "pay off Cadillac."
Also in the vehicle was a box of cassette tapes labeled Charity Gospel Tape Ministry. One shown to jurors was titled "The Godly Home."
In his opening statement, defense attorney Rob Madsen said Tim Jones was guided by his own warped interpretation of the Bible and the many passages he memorized, which had helped him gain control of his life following a traumatic childhood.
"Cindy put these voices in my head. She put this poison in my head," he told Mississippi investigators, referring to his mother, who was institutionalized decades ago with schizophrenia.
Jones' father, Tim Jones Sr. of Mississippi, participated in his son's post-arrest interview, wanting to help find his grandchildren. Jones Jr. initially lied, saying he kicked the children out of the vehicle at a Walmart near their home. When his father kept pressing for answers, Jones Jr. temporarily put his hands to his father's neck as if to choke him, but never applied pressure.
"The only way you can help me is to put a bullet in my head. The only way you can fix me is to kill me. After Amber left me, it just came out of me. I couldn’t control it. ... Someone stick a needle in my arm!" investigator Eric Johnson said Jones shouted during an erratic interview in which he alternated between screaming and crying, while sweating profusely in a well-air-conditioned room.
He eventually admitted to killing the children and agreed to lead authorities to the bodies.
Three days after his arrest, a police caravan drove several hours to a dirt road in Alabama, where Jones, getting out of the car crying, pointed with cuffed hands and screamed, "They're over there!"
Jones, who graduated with honors from Mississippi State University with an engineering degree, moved to South Carolina with his wife Amber and their then-three children when Intel hired him in summer 2011, at $69,000 a year. He got a promotion to $81,000 in April 2014 — months before killing his children — following a stellar evaluation with an "exceeds expectations" rating, according to testimony Wednesday.
His former supervisor, James McConnell, testified he never suspected Jones had mental issues or drug abuse problems. He did notice beginning in the summer of 2014 that Jones was losing weight, looked tired and started smoking.
McConnell said he attributed that to the stress of being a single dad and encouraged Jones to seek counseling. But he noted the quality of Jones' work never diminished.