LEXINGTON, S.C. — On August 28, 2014, Timothy Jones Jr. murdered his five children, one-by-one. Nearly five years later, the man who successfully got the conviction and death penalty for Jones says the children finally got justice.
Eleventh Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon, nearly one hour after a jury said Jones should die for killing 8-year-old Merah Gracie, 7-year-old Elias, 6-year-old Nahtahn, 2-year-old Gabriel, and 1-year-old Abigail Elaine.
"These five little babies finally got justice," Hubbard said. "They've been on our hearts and minds."
Over the course of five weeks in both the trial and sentencing phase, Hubbard and his team laid out the case that Jones was a cold-blooded killer, who went and killed each of his children after causing his first son, Nahtahn, to die by forcing him to do physical exercises. Nahtahn had wanted to go back to his mother before the killings, and in a phone call played in court between Jones and his father, the killer tried to blame the little boy or causing him to snap.
Hubbard said thinking about Nahtahn will stick with him for the rest of his life.
"He was the focal point," Hubbard said. "That little 6 year old bore a lot for a long time. No child should ever have to go through what he went through. And because of what he went through, his father turned on the other children. It begins with that, and it ends with that."
In an passionate closing argument, Hubbard told jurors Jones didn't deserve mercy, saying that if anyone was unsure if he should die, they should remember the images of his children's bodies left in garbage bags in a field in Alabama. It was just one of the horrific stories and descriptions the jury heard, and Hubbard thanked the panel for enduring an unusually hard trial.
Hubbard said it was a difficult case to prosecute too.
"This was a tough one, I'll tell you. It was emotional," he said. "When you see these teachers and just how emotionally attached they were. You see how real these children were and how special they were, and how horribly, horribly their lives were taken, it's got to affect you."
Jones' trial, Hubbard said, was the longest in the history of the Eleventh Circuit, which covers Lexington and three other South Carolina counties. And he said it might be the longest state trial in South Carolina history.
"I've never, in all my years, seen anything like this case. Ever. It doesn't even begin to compare."
During the trial, the defense argued Jones suffered from mental illness, and wasn't in full control of his actions. In the sentencing phase, the children's mother, Amber Kyzer, asked for mercy for Jones, even though she said she'd understand if the jury chose death. Several of his Jones' relatives, including his father and grandmother, begged the jury to spare his life.
They chose not to.
Hours after the verdict, Hubbard's office tweeted, one by one, a tribute to each child, saying in each post, "we are grateful to the jury for delivering justice." You can see those messages below.
Abigail "Elaine" Jones, age 1, was a happy baby who was adored by her siblings. Her babysitter, Joy Lorick, recalled that her brothers & sisters loved caring for her and called her their "baby." We are grateful to the jury for delivering justice for Abigail.
Gabriel Jones, age 2, was a happy toddler who loved trying to emulate his older siblings in everything they did. His babysitter, Joy Lorick, recalled that he loved playing with his siblings and was learning to talk. We are grateful to the jury for delivering justice for Gabriel.
Nahtahn Jones, age 6, was a playful and exuberant child who loved Woody from the movie Toy Story. His K5 teachers at @SaxeGothaEle remember his smile and that he excelled in computer lab. We are grateful to the jury for delivering justice for Nahtahn.
Elias Jones, age 7, was described by his 1st grade teacher at @SaxeGothaEle as "everybody's friend." He cared for his classmates and included everyone in recess & school activities. We are grateful to the jury for delivering justice for Eli.
Merah Jones, age 8, wrote in her @SaxeGothaEle mission statement that she wanted to be a "fantastic daughter and a helpful sister." She dreamed of becoming a nurse. She loved caring for her younger siblings. We are grateful to the jury for delivering justice for Merah.