Family pleads for baby killer’s life
By Mark Bellune
His father and the woman Tim Jones Jr. calls “mom” pleaded for his life Monday.
Asked if the Red Bank father of 5 should be executed for murdering his kids, his grandmother said, “No. God, no.”
Roberta Thornsberry, Jones’ grandmother and the woman who raised him along with his father, openly wept as a defense witness in a Lexington County court Monday.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr. was convicted last week of brutally murdering his 5 children — Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2 and Elaine Abigail, 1 — in their Red Bank home in August 2014.
After sealing their bodies in black plastic bags and driving them throughout the Southeast for 9 days, he dumped them like trash off a logging road in rural Alabama.
She said Jones called her “mom” after his mother abandoned him as an infant.
“I love him,” Thornsberry told the jury.
She said executing Jones would finally break the family.
There has been enough killing, she said.
“Our family has been through enough... I just think I can’t take anymore... I love him with all my heart.”
Prosecutor Shawn Graham said to her, “We know Merah was begging for her life saying ‘no, no, no’” as Jones strangled her to death.
Did you “know your grandson was so selfish” that he killed her? Graham asked.
Thornsberry appeared to take each word from Graham like a punch and answered through tears “Yes. He was selfish. He was an only child.”
Earlier she testified that losing her 5 great grandchildren was “an emptiness that never goes away... It’s horrible.”
Of her grandson she said, “I felt so guilty. I should have seen something... I wasn’t there to help him.”
Earlier a forensic psychiatrist told the jury she diagnosed Jones as schizophrenic.
Dr. Donna Maddox had been asked to consult for the defense after Jones was returned to South Carolina in 2014.
Dr. Maddox said she found Jones psychotic in her 1st interview with him Sept. 13, 2014.
“There was no question in my mind,” she told the jury.
She said she “checked on him once a year as a consultant.”
In 5 meetings she found Jones “meets the diagnostic criteria of schizophrenia.”
His use of synthetic marijuana at the time of the murders “can cause psychosis and that could have contributed to it... but it usually clears up after a month.”
After nearly 5 years of incarceration, Jones still has symptoms of schizophrenia, she said.
She also testified Jones’ jail escort to court noticed he was not sleeping.
After a day of jury selection the escort asked for Jones to be put on suicide watch and contacted her.
She said she increased his dosage of an anti-psychotic drug.
He seemed highly paranoid, a level she had not observed in him since her 1st interview with him after his arrest.
“Who told you I was up all night singing ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star?’” he demanded of her, although she had not heard that from anyone.
On cross examination she said Jones 1st psychotic break came the night of the murders when he was in his 30s.
That’s much later than most schizophrenics experience, she said.
Jones’ father, Timothy Ray Jones Sr. was the last to testify Monday before the jury was sent home early for the judge to discuss “issues” with the lawyers.
His 5 grandchildren “meant the world to me,” Jones Sr. said.
It’s been a “living hell”, he said. “It just changed me... I can’t sleep.”
He then displayed tattoos to the jury of the 5 grandchildren and his deceased brother and sister displayed across most of his back as a personal memorial to his loved ones.
Asked if he wanted his son put to death he replied, “No, sir.”
“I love him so much. I don’t want to hurt no more. It has destroyed my family.”