Murdered child’s memory haunts teacher
By Mark Bellune
The prosecution surprised Tim Jones Jr.’s defense Friday.
Prosecutors rested their case in the death penalty phase of Jones’ trial earlier than expected.
The defense called 2 witnesses before asking to adjourn shortly before noon.
Judge Eugene Griffith told the jury that the defense had prepared their witnesses to be in court Monday. They did not expect the state to rest its case so soon.
Defense testimony for Jones is expected to begin at 9 am Monday.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr. was convicted Tuesday of murdering his 5 children — Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahtahn, 6; Gabriel, 2 and Elaine Abigail, 1 — in their Red Bank home in August 2014.
The state called it’s last 3 witnesses to the stand Friday morning — all educators at Saxe Gotha Elementary where Merah, Elias and Nahtahn attended.
“Everybody wanted to be Elias’ friend,” said Elias’ 1st grade teacher Jacquelin Moran. “He would play with anyone who needed someone to play with.”
Of his murder she said “this is something I struggle with daily.”
Nahtahn’s kindergarten teacher Jonathan Stone took the stand next telling the jury “he always seemed to light up the room.”
He told the jury of Nahtahn showing him how he was punished by Jones with physical training.
“I felt like he was always in trouble,” he said. “I wanted him to know he was loved.”
After hearing of a Department of Social Services complaint against Jones, he noticed the 6-year-old had a “hand print around his neck with bruising... he seemed quite afraid.”
Stone said he broke down and had to go home to his 2-year-old when he learned of Nahtahn’s death.
He is transferring schools next school year because of the constant reminders of Nahtahn.
“I see him every day in his white T-shirt with his little pizza stains on it,” Stone said through sobs. “I see him walking down the kindergarten hall and I look — one day he’s there and the next day he’s gone,
“I can’t stand to be in that school and see him in the halls every day. I need a change.”
His teacher’s assistant Amy Shearer was the first to notice the bruising and “directly” reported it to guidance counselors, sparking a DSS investigation.
“He told me his dad held him like this,” putting her hand around her throat in front of the jury through tears, “and slammed him against the wall and held him there.”
She said she loved Nahtahn a little bit more because he didn’t have a mom.
After the murder she said “it was months before I didn’t wake up from the nightmares.
“I felt guilty. I saw the bruises and made a report and he’s not here today.”
Retired Assemblies of God pastor Kerry Breen testified for the defense that he saw Jones 10 to 20 times to minister to him while at Kirkland and Lee Correctional Institutions.
“I think Tim believes he’ll be reunited with his children in heaven,” he said.
While taking the scriptures too literally, Breen said Jones could still help other inmates in prison.
“They may not ever be able to be in society again but they can have a beneficial influence on men who have committed other crimes,” he said of men who “experience redemption.”
Sgt. Eric Lee of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Fugitive Task Force told the jury Jones had been compliant since he began overseeing his transportation 5 years ago.
He also stated why Jones, who has been clean shaven throughout the trial, sported stubble last Thursday, the 1st day of court after his murder conviction.
He said Jones told him he was running behind that morning and did not want to make the transport late to court.