Life or death? Accused child killer’s future in the hands of the jury beginning Tuesday

Life or death? Accused child killer’s future in the hands of the jury beginning Tuesday

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The trial for one of South Carolina’s most grisly crimes is set to begin Tuesday when the public will learn the likely gruesome details of how prosecutors say a Lexington County father killed his five children.

Timothy Jones Jr. is accused of their brutal murders at his Red Bank home in 2014. Investigators say he beat and strangled all of them to death, before placing their bodies in trash bags and driving around the southeast for nine days before dumping them in rural Alabama.

When he was arrested at a checkpoint in Mississippi, the officer said a terrible smell, blood and children’s clothes were inside the car.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, while Jones plans to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury can return four possible verdicts; guilty, guilty but mentally ill, not guilty by reason of insanity and not guilty.

If it returns a verdict of guilty, it will then have to decide a punishment for Jones. In a capital case, the two options in the punishment phase are life in prison without the possibility of parole or death.

If the jury returns with a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, by law Jones will be placed in a state hospital for up to 120 days. After that time period, the judge will determine whether he is suitable for release or if he will remain hospitalized.

Over the course of jury selection, many potential jurors labored over the idea of sentencing another person to death, while many said they could do it depending on the facts. In reality, South Carolina has not executed a person since 2011.

Prison officials said that is partly due to drug companies who supply drugs needed for lethal injections refusing to sell it, not wanting to be associated with contributing to capital punishment.

The department of corrections also said all 37 inmates currently on death row in South Carolina have not exhausted the appeals process yet, so there are no scheduled executions in the near future. The inmate with the longest tenure on death row, 35 years, was sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of a Lancaster County man and the sexual assault of his wife.

Death row inmates can choose whether they want to die by lethal injection or the electric chair, but the department said all have requested lethal injection. In recent years, bills have been introduced in the State House to bring back the electric chair and firing squad as a death penalty work-around, but to no avail.

The Jones trial will get underway Tuesday afternoon with opening statements. Attorneys expect the trial to last several weeks. WIS will begin its live stream coverage of the trial on Tuesday.

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