LEXINGTON — Prison officers' testimony Tuesday indicated Timothy Jones Jr. strangled all five of his children, seeming to dispute Jones' confession in which he repeatedly insisted his 6-year-old died by accident from physical exhaustion, causing him to succumb to the voices in his head and strangle the other four.
Crying and shaking after the doors slammed shut behind him at a maximum-security unit in Columbia, Jones blurted out that he strangled his son in anger over blown electrical outlets, then strangled his 8-year-old daughter when she walked in on him, said two officers who processed Jones at Kirkland Correctional in September 2014.
"He cried. He wished he could take it back. ... One of his sons was messing with sockets. He got angry because he could’ve killed himself. He grabbed his son and started strangling him," said Travis Pressley, a Kirkland supervisor.
"He kept saying the daughter walked in, and he said when he saw the daughter, she was shocked and ran the other way. He grabbed her and choked her so hard until she started to turn purple."
But the defense poked holes in the officers' testimony, painting them as incorrectly remembering which son Jones was rambling about.
Jones, who faces the death penalty on five counts of murder, does not dispute killing his five children — ages 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 — in their Lexington County trailer on Aug. 28, 2014. He is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorneys contend Jones is schizophrenic, undiagnosed at the time.
Also in court Tuesday, investigators detailed the internet searches Jones made over his cell phone in the days after killing his children. They included information on extradition laws, which foreign countries don't have any, landfill locations, "where you should run," and a search for his name and "missing children." Songs he looked up included "Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle, a Christian song about a father's love for his little girl, Styx's "Renegade," and the lyrics for Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."
In a 45-minute taped confession played in court Friday, Jones insisted he found 6-year-old Nahtahn dead after he "PTed him" — made him do squats, pushups and other exercises — for an hour in an unsuccessful attempt to get answers out of him, then sent him to bed in frustration. Discovering Nahtahn lifeless in his bed made "the voices start going off and then here comes the paranoia." He said he then strangled 7-year-old Elias, followed by 8-year-old Merah, with his hands, before using a belt to strangle the "babies" — Gabriel, 2, and Elaine Marie, 1.
"Nahtahn was an accident. I was trying to figure out what was going on. PT took him over the edge," he told investigators after he was arrested at a traffic checkpoint in rural Mississippi, after driving around the Southeast with their bodies in the back seat of his Cadillac Escalade for nine days.
"He was the whole center of this thing. He triggered this all," Jones said, adding he thought Nahtahn refused to tell him what happened to the outlets "because he's got something intended for me."
"I think they were conspiring," he told investigators. "I saw myself as a (expletive) target. I saw him (Nahtahn) as having a gun in his hand. ... I felt like I was marked for dead and acting accordingly."
Tuesday's testimony seems to not only dispute Jones' confession on how Nahtahn died but also what triggered him to strangle his other children.
"Tim held his hands up and showed us his hands, and he just blurted it out and kept going, saying his son was messing with the light socket and he grabbed and choked him. ... He said while choking his son his daughter came in the room," said officer Ben Boyd.
But Jones' public defenders noted that Pressley wrote in his post-processing report that Jones talked about strangling his "oldest" son, who would've been Elias. They also noted Boyd's report never mentioned the daughter. Boyd said he wrote a very cursory report at the time and nobody asked him to rewrite or supplement it.